Portmanteau Commentary: In the beginning there was beauty

Anyone involved in social media I'm sure would agree that posters and banners as an advertising form is becoming less and less relevant (don't want to quite jump on the word "obsolete" yet) as a marketing medium in terms of their impact and becoming more and more a form of art. Referred to as "visual pollution" in the late 90s their visual beauty is an issue that is becoming increasingly important.

How much I was going to miss the five storey tall slip clad models gracing the walls of Sao Paulo only became apparent when they introduced a ban to public advertising - the city looked like a wasteland of skeletons, often exposing slums that had been buried behind the walls of perception.


Luckily it was not long until Brazil, the country with one of the top three amounts of international advertising and visual marketing awards in the world, was allowed to bask in the glory of its public visual genius.

Apart from the miraculous disappearance of beggars at every stop in certain areas of Sao Paulo during the election period as well as an incredibly unusual possibility to be able to breathe and not want to itch your nose until they bleed inside out upon arrival from the airport, which forces you to drive past the (now clearly cleaned) polluted rive, something else really struck me in Sao Paulo this time. Something I can vaguely recall having registered in bits and pieces, held in images as I passed them by but never really registered as a whole.

Much like the clean slate allowing new, more thought through, beautifully designed posters to grace their yellow, half ripped off older cousins on the billboards, the walls of the tunnels and streets of Sao Paulo bear a beautiful platform for the graffiti artist of the city.

And I mean graffiti ARTISTS. Whole murals that are clearly commissioned, beautiful and intricate historical depictions of the landscapes, historical processes or simply strange creatures and beautifully painted abstract objects are visible across the city and delight the dreaded "transito" which gets you stuck in the car for hours upon hours to get only a few meters further (OK I'm exaggerating).

What has now become Banksyfied, lifted and glorified in museums, has been done for a while here. Unlike in most cities I've been to where names and thin, hip-hop type illegible writing is etched without imagination as a signature of protest is the predominant coloring of graffiti "stained" walls, those are quite rare. Here it is all about real art. About a block away from where I am staying, having seen it every day of every day I have stayed in Sao Paulo throughout my life - for all that time, I never managed to actually stop the car or walk that block to actually see and touch the Anglo-Brazilian mural that is, as I discovered in shock, 28 years old, had its own circuit surveillance cameras and lighting at night and guess what - it was sponsored by the British Council.