In the past few months I’ve had the privilege of living in two very cool, very different cities: Shanghai and Toronto.
Neither is known for their street art – not according to this list, nor according to my memory of friends’ profile pictures (a disproportionate amount of which are located by the same segment of the Berlin Wall).
Therefore, to liven up the laid-back intern lifestyle, I gave myself the challenge of seeking out some hidden, arty city gems.
I think I’ve done pretty well, hope you do too!
The go-to place for street art in Shanghai is M50. A few minute walk from Zhongtan Road metro station, the art district is fabulously eye-catching.
The graffiti-lined walls are brightly coloured – gorgeous on a sunny day and worth a visit along with the many converted warehouse galleries.
There aren’t any meaningful political statements (I’m sure any Banksy wannabes would be quickly smothered by state censorship), but the illustrations are amazing.
There are no other obvious locations for arty street shots in Shanghai, but I did find some fun cats in the cutesy, windy streets of Tianzifang (by Dapuqiao metro station).
The last and most unexpectedly art-filled location turned out to be Xiaonanmen.
The area is a fascinating slice of ‘old-school’ China rapidly being bulldozed to make way for luxury apartments and office blocks.
Nestled in the midst of markets, alleyways and run-down housing, the art has a less polished look.
But this didn’t mean it is any less lovely.
In Toronto, the obvious location for street art photography is at Kensington Market. The well-know, much-photographed and insanely eclectic neighbourhood is a tourist attraction in itself.
The murals can be found with little difficulty, as they are about as common in Kensington as vintage clothes, healing crystals and quirky eateries (pretty darn common).
They’re pretty phenomenal.
Even away from the trendy crowds, the tiny side streets and backs of restaurants maintain Kensington’s ‘cool’ vibes.
Venturing further off the beaten track, however, proved even more rewarding for the graffiti quest.
I couldn’t tell whether Ossington was hip and upcoming or just a tad dodgy and scary, but it played host to some pretty cool street art.
My favourite place of all proved, slightly bizarrely, to be in-between Keele and Dundas West subway stations.
There is all sorts of gorgeous artwork to be found next to the train tracks – if you start at Keele station’s car park and walk east.
From light-hearted cartoons to menacing monochrome murals, there really is something for everyone.
The artwork helps give boxy Toronto some vibrancy and vitality – which is particularly vital in the harsh winter months.
That’s all for now, folks!