From graffiti to street art in Luxembourg Or how tagging has become a recognised art form in the Grand Duchy over the past 25 years

Graffiti is the art of writing one's name in as many styles as there are writers. Through their illustrations, graffiti artists create markers in the urban space. They showcase their artistic know-how and their works are contemporary representations of our past. The first graffiti appeared in Luxembourg in the 1980s and 1990s. Seen at the time as an act of rebellion, and often inspired by the hip-hop scene, this urban art which has left its marks across the country, has become mainstream today. The taggers are familiar and locations are specially earmarked for their work. We encourage to find out for yourself! 

Do you remember the 1980s and 1990s? A time when everything was illegal!

Nameless and faceless. By definition, graffiti artists are not known as people, but by their names, which they paint on the walls. It is a language in itself, brimming with personalities and heritage...

In the 1980s, the first wave of hip-hop reached Europe, giving birth to the first graffiti artists in Luxembourg. Graffiti would pop up under bridges, in sheltered spots in the south of the country or in underground passages and on construction hoardings in Kirchberg. It was mainly the work of skaters or breakdancers, who were part of the rap scene. They would leave their mark without actually having a genuine "label". During this time, everything was illegal and people did not see graffiti as cool "street art"; instead it was considered as a form of pollution pointlessly defacing clean walls.

After this initial movement died down, a second wave emerged in the 1990s. In 1995, an educator decided to oppose the common trend and support a group of young people who were spray-painting the walls of the youth centre where he worked. He set up the "first large wall" for them on "rue de Strasbourg", where they could paint their graffiti. These youngsters are still active today: SUMO!, Spike, Stick, Dan Sinnes (Electric Avenue Tattoo), Alain Tshinza and many more.

With its roots still firmly entwined in the hip-hop scene, this event was the trigger for the Luxembourg graffiti scene to gain its independence. 

"When everything is black and white, and you are colourful, you stand out." SUMO!

Graffiti breaks free from its underground status

Young artists were soon recognised by the general public. Graffiti began to break free from its underground status and the idea of creating art simply for pure pleasure also becomes a sort of occupation. Commissions from the Chamber of Skilled Trades and Crafts (Chambre des Métiers), "den Atelier" concert hall as well as shops such as "Planet X" help to raise the profile of the artists and their work. It also gives them the chance to buy or be paid in material to create their graffiti. An increase in the stock of material leads to an increase in production.

Luxembourg graffiti artists begin to travel to the four corners of the world and take part in jams abroad. They find that graffiti is more established outside of Luxembourg and forge friendships with other artists in the Greater Region. The network grows further as a result of the artists studying abroad and through articles showcasing their work in international magazines as well as the first websites dedicated to street art; the movement eventually spreads its wings across the international arena.

Strictly speaking, "graffiti is not street art. Graffiti is just names and letters. It might be less accessible than street art but graffiti is a culture unto itself. It is an ensemble piece in which the tag - the signature - is as important as the beautiful illustration that accompanies the lettering". Stick

Capturing the urban landscape and conquering the terrain

When the city of Luxembourg opened the Skatepark, it made one wall available to the graffiti artist Stick and his friends from Brussels. Eager for more, during a second session, they broadened their palate and more or less appropriated the whole façade of the building! At the same time, other people began tagging the walls and adding pictures at various places across the site. In order to remove the graffiti once and for all, the city decided to paint all the walls white again. Before the renovation works, the city authorities nevertheless gave the graffiti artists free rein of the site. Lo and behold, to the surprise of the city, all the buildings were covered from floor to roof in paint in the space of a weekend! 

With its desire to renovate the site somewhat weakened, the city's Sports Department, which had moved to the Schluechthaus, authorised the work of "accomplished" graffiti artists under two conditions: the site must be kept clean and tidy and artists must obtain a permit or an official registration from the reception of the Skatepark upon arrival on site. An interview with Xavier Bettel, who was an elected member of the Chamber of Deputies at the time, in the magazine Rendez-vous (currently known as City magazinefinally gives his official seal of approval: in black and white, he declares that he is proud of this location "legally" dedicated to graffiti art!

At present, the situation is somewhat different: inner cities are brimming with urban art commissions and art is widespread in public areas. Street art has become accessible to all and it has helped to open the doors even further to the world of graffiti. 

L'interview avec Xavier Bettel dans le magazine "Rendez-vous"
© Ville de Luxembourg, SUMO!

A relatively small scene

Graffiti is a language, a means of expression. Its roots can be found in childhood and youth. The youth of today have grown up surrounded by the images of their predecessors and they use the images of their generation in their graffiti. 

"Graffiti is a movement that comes and goes in waves. Today, I witness generations of young people starting out, creating and developing. Then they leave the country and the movement slows down before starting over again. Sometimes, when someone is arrested for illegal graffiti, they grass on other artists. This results in the grounding of the whole scene." Stick

"Often, we judge the artist not the art. But when it comes to graffiti, we judge art for art's sake because we do not know the artist." SUMO!

Open air galleries to explore throughout the country

  • Luxembourg city, Schluechthaus, Hollerich / L – 1111 Luxembourg
  • Kirchberg, rue du Grünewald, Klose-Groendchen park
  • Luxembourg city, rue de Hollerich (construction hoarding)
  • Dommeldange, near the former swimming pool of the primary school
  • Ettelbruck, Pont du Deich / Parking du Deich, rue du Deich
  • Esch-sur-Alzette, Kufa's Urban Art
  • Differdange, Haneboesch industrial park, L-4562 Differdange
  • Pétange, Skatepark