The Art of Lockdown in Madrid
The loud colors of a muted city.
From March 14th to early May 2020, Madrid’s state of alarm required all non essential workers to stay at home. Unless you were popping into the pharmacy for health snacks like Ibuprofen, walking your dog, or buying groceries at the supermarket, you couldn’t step out the front door.
If you’re reading this, then congratulations for surviving this and other chilling chapters of pandemic life. Before we had the vaccine hunger games, there were simpler times when we banded together to keep each other safe.
What is always most interesting to me is how we survived. How each one of us chose to pass our time, locked up and lost in misinformation in the dark early days. The false promise, 15 more days, as we exercised patience.
What inspiration did we draw from? Who in our lives shined and offered support and positivity? Where did we go for solace? Creativity and resourcefulness were essential when restrictions made life drab, frightening, and isolating.
It was hard to focus on anything. This sentiment was echoed across the globe. I took up painting for a few hours; attempted to sew masks for a few days; of course there was Tiger King; and more podcasts and wellness books than I could keep up with.
There was one surprising solace for me, and that was the graffiti art found all over my neighborhood. There was a storybook dotted through the streets on closed store fronts, turning each page as I walked through the streets as if for the first time ever, absorbing the narratives of the original art.
I lived in a sun drenched attic apartment the heart of Madrid. Outside, surrounding the normally crowded streets were idyllic old buildings and juliette balconies. There were packed terraces with chairs and tables dotted with cafe con leche and glasses of wine. There were waves of pedestrians passing through plazas and over pebbled streets. During lockdown none of this existed. It was a quiet and empty city. Despite the sun shining as bright as ever, it wasn’t enough to lift your spirit.
If you’ve ever been to Spain’s capital city, you know that it is full of life. If you live here, the completely cleared and quiet streets during lockdown came with a kind of mourning. Madrid is never quiet. You will completely lose track of time in this city. The evenings are brightly lit and people are to be found everywhere. This is why the graffiti art was so much more striking. Set as the backdrop to a once bustling city life, in those deserted days, the graffiti kept the energy alive in a way. The pops of color and diverse themes gave me something to look for.
Over the weeks in May, some restrictions were lifted or loosened. We were able to leave home for walks within a short distance from our homes. It was an indescribable joy to see people in the streets again. Though the air was somber, we were grateful for the fresh air and return to some normalcy. Here, I’m sharing some of the photographs I took while walking through those empty streets, the loud colors of a muted city.
There is an incredible graffiti culture in Madrid. Every year there is a festival called, “Pinta Malasana” where artists can be seen all throughout a hip young neighborhood, painting the storefronts. You can find this year’s festival photos at the bottom half of the page below.