From the moment I discovered street art in East London, it was like something had awakened inside me. Colourful, vibrant, and often political, street art was a diverse form of self-expression that helped me feel connected to the city of London which I lived in. It unleashed my creativity, and transported me into a world of art, texture, and cultural significance. From Banksy, to Dan Kitchener, I discovered incredibly talented street artists who conjured fantastical, whimsical, often gritty paintings that verged on magical surrealism. Shapes were subverted, colours were juxtaposed, and the art would bring people together, graffiti artists spray painting their next big thing. Murals, street corners, and transformed streets, bursting with unadulterated colour. It seemd a far cry from my parent’s home country Madeira, a rural, natural wonderland, teeming with Levada walks, caves, hikes, and stunning basalt sand beaches, unusually inky in hue. Just 10 years ago, finding street art in Funchal, Madeira, seemed like a far stretch. How wrong I was, this Portuguese Atlantic gem, swimming with breathtaking paintings, textured wall art, and splashes of colour.
Ornately painted doors in Old Town Funchal, a historic cobbled street named Rua de Santa Maria brought to life. A sea of colours, greens, blues, purples and oranges, a tapestry of art woven throughout Funchal. It was a stunning trail of creativity, like tantalizing breadcrumbs for the public to feed on. Madeira was always beautiful, but now it had grit, an artistic edge to its primed green and blue beauty, a place where artists could feel alive, and have the freedom to reinvent themselves. Like the UK, street art is becoming an increasingly prevalent part of the Portuguese island’s history. With prolific painters, graffiti artists, sketchers, and dreamers letting loose on Madeira’s art and culture scene, finding incredible street art in Funchal, Madeira, has never been easier. But where did it all start? After all, Madeira an island founded by Tristão Vaz Teixeira, Bartolomeu Perestrelo and João Gonçalves Zarco, two Portuguese explorers, in 1419, was upheld for its natural beauty.
Street art is nothing new in the UK, but in Madeira, it is a relatively new phenomenon. In fact, there is little written on the history of street art in Madeira, because it is so recent. If you look at Old Town Funchal, up until 2010 it was a standard, yet still picturesque cobbled street, with old, detoriating doors, that lent a quaint charm to Madeira’s capital city. It was when famed photographer José Maria Zyberchem started the ‘Painted Doors Project’, that the street art scene in Madeira came alive. He (literally) opened doors to other renowned artists, either expats, tourists or locals, who made Madeira their sunshine playground, and transformed it into the artistic, cultural district that we know and love today.
Great artists like Olga Drak, Fatima Spinola and Artur Bordalo have beautiful paintings in Madeira’s capital city, some of which you might recognize even outside of Portugal. Take Cristiano Ronaldo for example, Madeira’s most famous living celebrity. The British artist Richard Wilson made a tribute mural to football player Cristiano Ronaldo, which occupies two walls of the Santo António Civic Centre, located in parish where the football player lived. Another incredible artist, Artur Bordalo ( a Portuguese unconventional street artist), has some amazing work near CR7 Pestana Hotel and also another in Camara De Lobos. He uses ‘garbage materials’ and creates urban wall art and installations all over the world. His work has been seen in Lisbon, France, Switzerland, and the USA.
Street art might be new to the Maderian art scene, but it is one that its artists have gladly accepted as a challenge. Local artists, painters from worldwide, and budding amateurs, all come to Funchal, to add colour and Dimension, to its otherwise coastal city. This is no ordinairy coastal destination, but a city, where boats, beach and sand, meets renovated painted doors, woven with stories of artists past, and present. As someone who is proud to have Maderianese heritage, it makes my heart swell with joy. At last, Madeira is being recognized and acknowledged not just for its incredible scenery, but its art too, spotlighting fantastic Portuguese artists who deserve their time to shine. From street art painted on doors, to animal art made from garbage, and murals in resturants, bars, and hotels, street art has exploded in recent years. So where can you find incredible street art in Funchal, Madeira’s capital city?
From the Painted Doors Project in Old Town Funchal, to street art in Funchal’s Waterfront, and CR7 Pestana Hotel, here is how you can make the most of the stunning street art in Funchal, Madeira. After all, what more could you want, visiting a gorgeous, cultural, artistic island, where Madeira is warm most of the year round. With temperatures averaging 19.3°C, this sub-tropical island is the perfect place to ger your street art fix, connect with local artists, and enjoy delicious food, drink, and stunning views, while you soak up the sunshine. Question is, which Funchal street art district will you visit first?
Find Beautifully Painted Doors In Old Town ( Zona Velha)
In 2010, Zona Velha was home to abandoned buildings, where forgotten streets gathered dust, many restaurants and bars going out of business. But then one day everything changed; the historical centre of the city of Funchal (Zona Velha) was transformed, into a colour wonderland, where tourists gathered once more. Old Town Funchal became a permenant art gallery, not too disimilar from Shoreditch and Brick Lane, presenting the Painted Doors Project, that took visitors breaths away. Designed to turn downtown Funchal into an attractive culture centre, the formerly abandoned area was revitalized with cultural and artistic activities. With over 100 artists participating to transform old doors into magical art pieces, Zona Velha was busy with tourists once more.
But who was responsible for transforming Old Town Funchal into a street art paradise? The Painted Doors Project was led by José Maria Zyberchema, who partnered with João Carlos Abreu, former Regional Secretary of Tourism and Culture, the Municipality of Funchal in collaboration with a couple of private entities.Among the various renowned personalities from the Madeira art scene, who contributed to the ‘Painted Doors’ project, were the architect Paulo David and the designer Nini Andrade Silva. So far, over 100 artists have participated in the project to give the old doors a new lease of life, including Wolfgang Lass, Olga Drak and Marcos Milewski.
The arte das portas abertas (painted doors project) can be found in many roads in Funchal, including Rua de Santa Maria (see below), Travessa das Torres nº1 and Rua dos Barreiros, where there are no limits to the creativity, and talent that its many artists possess. Although there have been some painted doors that have come and gone, infamous ones like Look Beyond The Happy Ending by Fátima Spinola, ‘The Door’ by Wolfgang Lass and Bem me Quer by Luisa Spinola, have stood the test of time. With fine art galleries, delicious restaurants, terrace bars, and quaint cobbled streets, you can spend hours lost in Madeira’s most infamous street art district, without getting bored.
Check Out Funchal’s Most Colourful Street At Rua de Santa Maria
One of the most beautiful streets in Funchal Old Town (and perhaps the most infamous) is Santa Maria Street (Rua de Santa Maria), home to art galleries like Art Center Caravel and MA Art Gallery. Here there are no limits to its creativity, from paintings, to murals, to graffiti, sculptures, and unconventional art, anything goes. With over 200 magical painted doors, visitors will be spellbound, by the art that they find here. With so many doors to choose from, which should you check out on your trip to see street art in Funchal, Madeira?
Speaking of mermaids, another phenomenal artist is Ukraine Painter Oleksander Gonchorov, who moved to Madeira to get in touch with his ‘spiritual side’. A carpenter and woodworker by trade, Oleksander discovered his passion for painting, and brought his talents to Madeira. His most infamous piece, located at Nº147 in Rua de Santa Maria, is that of an ethereal face, burrowed in hyper-dimensional bubbles, seemingly surrounded by planets in outer space. A cross between ‘ocean life’ and intergalatic fantasies, this is one of my favourite painted doors in Madeira. Oleksander is a man of many talents, and alongside his ‘painted doors’ series, he also has an exhbition called ‘Thinking Out Loud’ with incredible pieces like Two Minutes, a surrealist exposition between household chores, and the starry sky, as well as Paper Pilgrim and ‘On the Finger of God’.
Want to find an artist that sums up the spirit of street art in Funchal, Madeira? Geraldo Pimenta’s large ‘beach’ mural at N.117 is iconic in Madeira, with bright surfboards, propped up against the silky sand beach. The blue sky, and surrounding waves, is designed in an idealistic style, a romanticized caricature of Madeira’s island life, paying homage to its surfing background.
It’s bold, its bright, and hopelessly joyful, even on a cloudy, rainy day in Rua de Santa Maria. If you want to explore Santa Maria Street, but have no idea where to find these magical doors, Projecto artE pORtas abErtas, is a fantastic resource, that will show you the name of the artist who painted each door, where they are located, as well as Funchal Old Town’s surroundings streets and its art.
Get A Taste Of The Unusual At CR7 Pestana Hotel
Want to see something unusual? Famed Portuguese artist Artur Bordalo II, has created the most magnificient art sculpture, turning trash into rainbow magic. He is known around the world for drawing attention to climate change, pollution, and raises awareness of endangered species in his spectacular art. Known as ‘trash art’, Bordalo’s art can be seen all over Madeira, including Camara De Lobos, Funchal Old Town, and near CR7 Pestana Hotel. At a glance you wouldn’t expect CR7 Pestana Hotel to be affiliated with street art, a glossy, high rise hotel overlooking Funchal’s scenic waterfront. But with a little digging, you come across Bordalo’s rainbow fish, an explosion of colour, that looks marvelous considering it is made out of trash.
His installations are thought provoking, art that questions the consumerist society we live in, and how our excessive consumption results in a continuous production of garbage. Animals like the fish you see before you are endangered by the activities of human kind, who treat the planet with reckless abandon, without thought for other species. Bordalo maintains that our planet is being destroyed, and recycles trash, so that it transforms into something beautiful. He shows how we can make the world a better place, by treating other species as our equals.
According to Bordalo II, the “The idea is to depict nature itself, in this case, animals, out of materials that are responsible for its destruction.” His creations show depictions of bears, foxes, various species of birds, elephants, felines as well as numerous different sea animals. Bordalo’s art ranges from small to large, but is well known for his rainbow art pieces, such as the ‘Plastic Mero’ Fish in Funchal, the ‘Half Father Bear’ in Paris, and ‘Lighted Wild Cat’ in Agueda, Portugal. Featured in ‘Icons of Street Art’ by photographer Michael Harker, Bordalo is a critically aclaimed artist, whose international fame, and worldwide appeal is very well-deserved.
Get Starstruck At Santo António Civic Centre
No matter where you live in the world, the cult celebrity status of Cristiano Ronaldo, cannot be sniffed at. He grew up in Santo Antonio, in Funchal, in the Quinta Falcão neighbourhood, and was destined to be a star from a young age. Not only has he received five Ballon d’Or/FIFA Ballon d’Or awards, the most for a European player, but he also helped lead Portugal to victory, in the 2016 Euros. So it should come as little wonder that Cristiano Ronaldo features heavily in the street art scene in Funchal, where he was born. Perhaps the most infamous painting is that at Santo António Civic Centre, where Cristiano is wearing the Portuguese football kit, with a text overlay that reads ‘filho de terra’ (son of Earth). It’s large, and difficult to miss, one of Funchal’s most notable tourist spots for die hard football fans.
The painting is visible from several points of Santo António (the largest and most populous parish of Funchal) and draws the attention of residents and visitors, who go to the location of the mural to take photos with their sporting hero.The wall has areas with the colors of the flag of the Madeira Autonomous Region, blue and yellow, and is completed with CR7 initials. Painted by British Artist Richard Wilson, it was created after his mural of Leicester City’s Premier League- winning coach Claudio Ranieri went viral. After seeing how communities felt connected when they saw their heroes painted, he decided to continue creating murals of people who inspired him. His decision to paint Ronaldo came after he watched Portugal and Ronaldo in Euro 2016.
When he painted Ronaldo, he decided to paint him in No.7 in a Portugal shirt, rather than the ‘Real Madrid’ kit, the team he was playing for at the time. This is because he wanted to pay tribute to the 2016 Euro win, and upon advice from the locals, he also painted the phrase ‘filho da terra’, which those from Maderia use to refer to the player as one of their own. While not the only mural dedicated to Ronaldo in Funchal, it is certainly the most prolific and well known. A smaller wall art spray paint sketch is located close to the fruit market in Funchal, otherwise known as the Mercado dos Lavradores.
Although you can go whale watching in Madeira, I mean this figuratively. At Auto-silo do Campo da Barca (a parking lot), you find yourself face to face with an impressive, statuesque whale, which cost £10,000 Euros to paint. A hefty price to pay for street art (but well worth it), it was painted by Polish and Argentinian-French artist Marcos Milewski, who now resides in Madeira. Titled ‘ A Baleia, it was painted in 2017, and has remained a tourist attraction ever since. Later, the artist made another painting on the other side, which he named ‘The Whale’s Tail’.
Have You Ever Been To Madeira And Seen Its Beautiful Street Art?
Please note this is a collaborative post but all thoughts are my own and are not affected by monetary compensation. I would love to know whether you have got to experience the amazing street art scene in Madeira before? Have you seen the street art in Funchal, Madeira? Let me know in the comments below! I would like to say a special thanks to two incredible groups: This Is Madeira Island and Madeira Island for Travellers, as both groups have helped me expotentially with information, and imagery on the street art scene in Madeira.