Ljubljana’s Metelkova street art guide

Living in a city where street art can be summarised by a series of underpass tags, I sometimes forget just how inspiring it can be. After a trip around alternative Berlin back in 2014, I made a resolution to broaden my horizons and discover more European wonders of the street art variety.

Although many Ljubljana visitors know about Metelkova, this small corner in Slovenia’s capital is still largely unknown around the rest of the world. But, with a bustling student population and a steady creative emergence, it might just be one of the likeliest places to look if you’re in search of artistic inspiration.

In the past, Ljubljana’s biggest historical landmarks were monopolised by Jože Plečnik (1872-1957), who also had significant architectural input in Vienna and Prague. By contrast, today’s emerging street art scene is making way for new styles that any artist can contribute towards.

A new lease of life

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As a former military barrack, Metelkova consists of seven buildings that have served as an open canvas since the 1990s. While it became a squat in 1993, it’s also currently home to an art gallery, bars, artist and designer studios and cultural organisations that host live music and other outdoor events.

The area isn’t solely an amalgamation of graffiti. Distorted sculptures emerge from the brickwork and colourful pieces add a new dimension to previously flat art. Included in the squat’s supporting columns, it seamlessly merges into its environment by using the same recycled materials. Artists sometimes even go a step further, incorporating larger elements such as abandoned cars or signs into their artwork. Their work is more than decoration: it’s part of Metelkova’s landscape and foundations.

The area is relatively quiet during the day, with tourists and art enthusiasts touring the area. However, at night, the many bars and clubs come alive, giving the squats a new lease of life.

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What are your thoughts on street art: artistic addition or public defacing? Discuss the post in the comments below or tweet me @sideroutes.

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