by Carla Harms
Barely a decade has passed since the urban arts scene in Buenos Aires really began to explode, and at the beginning of a new one the buzz continues to grow louder. Local businesses have long since picked up the trend, with a number arranging graffiti walking tours around the city, and documentary series like “Paredes que hablan” that offer intimate portraits of the city’s most prominent street artists to anyone with basic cable. International media stories and books published on the subject have also put Buenos Aires on the world map of the urban community.
This explosion of graffiti and street art in the public eye is a testament not only to the nature of the art itself, but to the growing number of arts organizations focused on this growing minority within the art world. One of those organizations is Honeycomb, a bi-city community of artists dedicated to cultural exchange and providing new venues for exhibiting young contemporary artwork.
Inspired by the street art in Buenos Aires and the city as a whole, Honeycomb founder Trystan Bates set out in 2009 to create something unique. While certainly not the first startup group inspired by the urban art in the city, Bates has taken this initiative a few steps further both conceptually and geographically, producing creative spaces for social and environmental issues arising both in and outside of Buenos Aires.
Practice what you preach: Trystan Bates also works as an artist within the collective, above artwork by Bates
Like Bates himself, Honeycomb is based in Buenos Aires and New York, but has members in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Honeycomb operates as part creative agency, part social organization, and part arts collective, functioning much like its namesake—a supporting structure that grows and develops through its many parts.
Kicking off the year in Buenos Aires, Honeycomb’s first event takes place on January 15th at ThisIsNotAGallery in Palermo. Entitled 500 Con, the one-day pop-up exhibition will invite viewers to watch 21 urban artists creating posters on 500 sheets of paper that will cover the interior space of the venue. The artists will be divided into two groups to create two collaborative murals for four hours. The murals will later be disassembled into individual works that can be purchased by the general public. A portion of the proceeds will go to Honeycomb’s charity partner, Wild Again, an environmental organization dedicated to buying land for the purpose of reforestation.
Also present at the event will be Puro, the Argentine streetwear company, who will set up a station where artists will paint on sneakers. There will also be an acoustic concert with local band Recoveko and prize drawings throughout the day.
500 Con is right in line with Honeycomb’s mission of providing ways for a city’s public to interact with art in a way that is non judgmental and accessible for viewers and collectors.
“We make it a point to have the exhibitions and projects as welcoming and inviting as possible so that they are attractive and interesting to a wide audience rather than to just a selected few,” says Bates. One of Honeycomb’s goals is to attract members of the public who may have never entered a gallery, either for lack of interest or perhaps fear of the stereotypical commercial gallery scene.
It’s a theme that seems to be popular here in Buenos Aires, a city rich in art spaces that are anything but stuffy. Perhaps this is why it has become home to arts organizations like Honeycomb, which pride themselves on thinking outside the box. For its event on the 15th, Honeycomb has garnered the support of other local organizations interested in emerging and street art such as Juanele, Graffitimundo, Kuwait, Wicked Mag, Revista Dadá Mini, Terrorismo Gráfico, Citric, and Papelera Palermo. What is notable is that given the groups’ similar interests, an event like this might be cause for competition in other cities. Here there is a definite sense of communal effort going into 500 Con, which is perhaps a testamony to the enthusiasm of all those involved and atmosphere of this particular part of the arts scene in Buenos Aires.
Bates does point out that spending half his year in New York, Honeycomb’s sister city, has given him the opportunity to discover both similarities and differences in the arts scenes of the two cities. He says both cities share a passion and a sense of community within the urban society, something that he feels gives the urban/new art movement its real strength and beauty. What is different, however, is the faster speed at which things get accomplished in New York and the availability of resources and studio spaces for artists. The lack of affordable studio space and scarce resources are two often heard complaints among emerging artists in Buenos Aires.
“This is a serious issue,” says Bates, “because it stunts the growth of the artist rather than encouraging it, and as a direct result affects the cultural life of the entire city.” He dreams of seeing government or real estate developers devoting buildings for studios or residencies for artists. While these are challenges common to the art scenes in most cities, Bates feels like they are particularly pertinent here in Buenos Aires.
In spite of these challenges, there exists, for Bates, a sense of humor and light heartedness, as well as a strong desire for progress among the graffiti and public artists of Buenos Aires. It would seem that, given the history of the city, porteños are just good at making lemons out of lemonade. The result is a flourishing street art scene that graffiti artists tell you offers viewers a way to experience the history of the city through their images.
And although Bates has been greeting with “buena onda” in the Buenos Aires urban art scene, Honeycomb is eager to produce events in other cities as well, despite where he or the artists are located at the time.
“Physical location does not designate where our activities take place. I am always interested in introducing local talents to other parts of the world which is why we are constantly working on producing projects not only within Argentina and New York but also internationally,” says Bates.
Photograph from a Honeycomb show in Germany.
Coming up in 2011, Honeycomb has a two-month show based on the theme of rituals planned for New York, and another large exhibition planned for 2012 in London. Centering on the theme of war and peace, the exhibition will be produced in conjunction with Laura McNamara, a Birmingham-based artist agency and curator who works with street and contemporary artists. There is another large crossover event planned for Buenos Aires and New York in 2012 as well, but Bates wouldn’t reveal much about it right now, promising only that it would involve a large scale collaboration and that the group has “hopes for it changing the urban art scene” in Buenos Aires.
In the mean time, Honeycomb is always open to new ideas and projects, with events taking place as they come along. If you would like to know more about Honeycomb events, you can sign up on the contact page of their website. Bates adds that the group is always on the lookout for new artists to join the group, and if interested, they can send images to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The event 500 Con takes place on January 15 at ThisIsNotAGallery, 5849 Cabrera in Palermo. It starts at 12:00 and runs through 20:00. To be entered in the prize drawings, RSVP email@example.com.