From gray concrete walls to colorful street art.
In the past, North Jutland’s capital, Aalborg, was a distinct industrial city with manufacturing companies and concrete constructions as the dominant look. In recent years, however, the city has transformed into a hub for art and culture which, among other things, can be seen physically in the city’s streets, where large murals are on full display on buildings, house gables and silos. Today, Aalborg Street Art consists of more than 70 pieces painted by both Danish and international artists, and the impressive murals are located from the area in the east around Eternitten to Aalborg Vestby.
There are various local promoters behind Aalborg’s Street Art. The first step was taken by Kent Wolfsen from Galleri Wolfsen, when in 2013 he brought one of the world’s most famous street artists, El Mac, to Aalborg from Los Angeles. Back home in the USA, El Mac’s street art is called “The heart and soul of Los Angeles”, and technically, the American is in a league of his own. El Mac is the artist behind Aalborg’s first mural, which is on Urbansgade and is named “Our Lady of Aalborg”. The American has since visited the city again and has left yet another impressive mural in Vestbyen named “Purity of Heart”.
After Wolfsen’s initiative, several local enthusiasts followed suit. In 2014, Lene Kirk from Galleri Kirk launched the project “Out in The Open”, which was – and still is – designed to decorate and breathe life into Aalborg’s urban space with unique murals of high international character. Since then, the project has been running for five consecutive years and each year a handful of artists have been selected based on their high artistic standard and their international renown in mural artistry. In 2019, among other things, a mural was painted on Hjulmagervej by the Dutch duo Telmo Miel and Joram Roukes.
Lars Bonde and Mads Mulvad, who are behind the project WEAART, have also contributed to Aalborg’s urban space being more colorful than ever before. Over the course of 2014, 2015 and 2016, the two gentlemen have brought at least 29 international up-and-coming or renowned street artists to Aalborg. The artists have decorated small corners of Aalborg in hopes of creating exciting and inspiring contemporary art. This has, among other things, resulted in pieces by Australian Fintan Magee on Sankt Hans Gade, Austrian Nychos on Reberbansgade and American Tristan Eaton on Alexander Foss Gade.
The growing amount of Aalborg street art ranges widely in expression, as the talented street artists often draw inspiration from the walls’ surroundings and the experiences Aalborg offers during their work at heights. The artists work for up to a week on the large murals, where both private and local sponsors contribute food and materials.
The Spanish artist who goes by the pseudonym LIQEN is one of the artists who has added several references in their work on Danmarksgade. For one thing, the large wall is adorned with a massive crab, which symbolizes a thank you to the furniture store Brdr. Sørensen’s staff, who served delicious fish dishes for lunch while the Spaniard worked. LIQEN’s work also incorporates references to the Viking Age, which is a frequent trend in many of the murals. Denmark’s and, in particular, Aalborg’s special Viking background is a great source of inspiration for many of the artists, who, for example, are interested in Northern Jutland’s massive ring fortress Fyrkat and Lindholm Høje Museet. Other examples of references in several of the pieces in Aalborg are religious references or references to charitable purposes such as the World Wildlife Fund.
The size of the Aalborg Street Art pieces varies considerably when you take a look around the city streets. The murals are found on everything from the city’s characteristic large structures such as the Limfjordsbroen to small nooks and backyards, which means you have to hunt for these colorful treasures. Aalborg is also home to the country’s largest mural which is a staggering 1,220 m2. The piece is located on the Hedegaard Silo at the Port of Nørresundby and is named “Det røde bånd” [“The Red Ribbon”]. The motif was made by Søren Elgaard, who was born and raised in Aalborg and portrays a section of the railway bridge. The painting work itself was done by students and instructors from TechCollege Trade Education Center.
Aalborg has so many colorful treasures that it can be difficult to keep track of when you’ve seen them all. Therefore, to help, VisitAalborg has made a map and prepared a list of the many murals, so it’s easy for you to go hunting on your own. It’s also possible to book a guide who takes both locals and tourists around through the streets of Aalborg and tells the anecdotes behind the many murals.