While on a recent trip to Bogotá to explore the city and the new W hotel there, we were treated to a graffiti tour of the city. If you, like me, think you know graffiti because you once bought a book about Banksy at an Urban Outfitters or saw Exit Through the Gift Shop, then your knowledge is merely scratching the surface of the longstanding art form.
The hotel’s design, by New York-based Studio Gaia, is an homage to Colombia’s most precious assets: its mining community (dark cavernous corridors lead to bright and light guestrooms); gold (accents throughout are an allusion to the city of gold); emeralds (Bogotá could be called the Emerald City as the majority of the precious stones are produced in Colombia); and, of course, graffiti (a mural in the W Lounge highlights this notorious art form).
Graffiti is so important in Bogotá, as it is in many urban cities, that the W called upon Vertigo Graffiti, a collective of seven well-known graffiti artists founded in 2008, to craft a mural in tribute to El Dorado. The artists looked at the legend behind the legend, which featured, like many stories, a beautiful woman, her husband, and a strong warrior. From there, the story practically writes itself, and the piece depicts the woman, who drowned in the sea after her husband banished her.
While this is visible in the W Lounge, it also is insight into the colors and patterns that pervade the Colombian city. During a street tour, we stopped in front of a mural scaling a 10-foot wall in the middle of Bogotá. “The Kiss of the Invisible,” one of Vertigo Graffiti’s most prominent commissioned works, is based on a famous photo by Hector Favior Zamora of a homeless couple sharing a kiss and an embrace, and highlights love.
Like many prominent art forms, graffiti is a response to oppression, political unpopularity, and the chaos of the world. And Vertigo Graffiti is doing what graffiti has always set out to do: to be seen and known.