There are several places in the Grand Duchy where buildings, houses, walls, doors, schools, railway stations, and even waste bins, are adorned with murals or graffiti. If you want to take a tour of some of these open air art galleries, we take you through what you can find and where, plus a bit of history on Luxembourg’s urban art movement.
The first graffiti and murals appeared in Luxembourg in the 1980s, inspired by the hip-hop scene. Back then, it was illegal to spray paint walls, and often seen as an act of rebellion against the establishment. Artists were anonymous, except for their sign off or a name and persona they created.
Early urban art appeared under bridges, walkways and on construction hoardings. By the mid-1990s, some in education and social welfare supported this trend, encouraging the spray painting of walls on youth centres, the first in rue de Strasbourg. The artists that took part in, and became popular, in that first wave are still adorning the walls of Luxembourg today – Sumo, Spike, Stick, Dan Sinnes and Alain Tshinza. Soon there were commissions from the Chambre de Métiers and the music venue den Atelier.
Today urban art, street murals, and graffiti are seen as a media for expression and creation, particularly for the more vulnerable in society, and used to promote social cohesion by encouraging communication between different groups.
And how do they paint or spray on such a grand scale? Well, some urban artists use a grid system to transfer work onto buildings, others project their work and paint over it. Drawing and creating freehand is also an option. If you’re lucky you might get to watch a street artist at work somewhere in the Grand Duchy.
So where can you check out some urban art and street murals or graffiti? Pretty much all over Luxembourg where the odd façade or utilities block has been turned into a work of art, but there are a few cities, towns and villages that have a more dedicated leaning towards this open-air art form.
If you’ve ever walked around Esch you will not have failed to notice the fifty or so murals that adorn the walls of public buildings, railway arches, schools and houses, and even waste bins. Kufa’s Urban Art Esch project, organised by Kulturfabrik, originally brought together artists and collectives, and soon added an international dimension, which continues to grow.
Some murals are design, some graffiti, some art. Many offer political statements. The most famous is the one that adorns the building to the side of Kulturfabrik by artist Mantra, entitled “Curiosity feeds imagination”. It shows a young woman reading. Behind her the bookshelves are dotted with preserved butterflies. An owl sits on her shoulder and two spotted eagle rays glide past the books. The artist, from Lorraine, based the mural on a photograph of a friend, and drew it freehand in 2016.
Early works commissioned by Kulturfabrik from 2014 include one by Sumo entitled “Free emancipated art”, in recognition of the organisations origins as a squat. By the venue’s bar, artist Franco’s piece “Yo” shows strange cartoon-like characters in black and white, some human, some with whiskers, and one a monkey. The notes that float between them remind the viewer that Kulturfabrik is also a music venue.
Nearby, the outside wall of an inconspicuous drug rehab centre, Fixerstuff, has been painted by Spanish artist Julieta XLF, and shows a girl flanked by a phoenix and two white horses, surrounded by red poppies –a reference to both the drugs and a hope that the addict, like a phoenix, will rise from the ashes.
You can take a walking tour of all the artworks using this map, and Kufa organises guided tours at various times of the year. In preparation for Esch2022, several murals and urban art were added to the city, including those by Boa Mistura, who decorated the bus station with colourful frescoes, and Gola Hundun who adorned the youth hostel with leaves and flowers in an “intimate jungle”.
During Esch2022, Portuguese artists Mariana Duarte Santos painted a mural at the Night of Culture on 13 May, depicting the past and present of the neighbourhood of Lallange, with modern houses and kids hanging out painted in colour, juxtaposed with a black and white scene of people skating on a frozen lake some 100 years ago, and which no longer exists in the municipality.
Following in the footsteps of Esch, the town of Ettelbruck started to adorn the city with artworks, and in 2017 and called on urban artists to make it the creative capital of the north.
The first project, a fresco featuring butterflies by Mantra was created in Place de la Liberation. In 2019 Alain Welter (of Kool Koler fame) redesigned the façade of the General Patton Memorial Museum, and tattooist Sandra Biewers created a work on Place Marie-Adelaide. Vidam, an artist from Berlin, painted the school-squirrel in 2020, located near the Aschenhiweel monument and drawing inspiration from a classic 1980s cartoon. Alex McKell grew up in England, and painted a geometric whale on the church, her mural is a daily reminder of the sea life with which we share our planet.
In 2021, Dourone and Elodieloll painted the side wall of Café Supreme with NYA 00:00’02 using two pictures of model Nya taken 2 seconds apart. They push the viewer to reflect on the concept of time, using references like pixels to show movement.
The same year, Luxembourg’s best known graffiti artist, Sumo created the country’s largest open-air urban art gallery under the Deich bridge. Fifteen artists from Luxembourg, Germany, France, Portugal, Italy, and the Netherlands transformed 16 walls. The works are by Alëxone, Bo130, Collin van der Sluijs, Cone The Weird, LOOK the Weird, The Caver, Daan Botlek, Dave The Chimp, Nicolas Barrome Forgues, Niark1, Microbo, Nilko, Spike, Stick, SUMO.
Ettelbrooklyn Street Fest further promotes urban art, bringing together artists, music, and breakdancers, whilst Hariko is a place for artists, musicians and young people to get together and create. Founded in 2015 in Bonnevoie as an outreach service to offer activities to young people, Hariko opened in Ettelbruck in 2019, and provides rent-free space for six artists in exchange for which free workshops are given to young people.
You’ll find the gallery plus works by Eric Mangen, Raphael Gindt, and Stick on this interactive map.
Kahler or Koler, in the western municipality of Garnich is home to the murals of local artist, Alain Welter, who decided to “Make Koler Kooler” by transforming various buildings, barns, bridges and house facades in the village. He started the project in 2017 after studying design and illustration at Berlin. Today he runs workshops for companies, schools and other organisations to use graffiti and murals to transform workspaces, and has worked with Post Luxembourg, ING, and PwC.
“Howdy Farm” shows a pig, chicken, cow, donkey and cat, whilst the local stables is adorned with a horse. The most iconic mural is probably that of a frog riding a bicycle. Under a bridge, one of the supporting pillars boasts a colourful croc sporting a lot of bling. Other artists have contributed to Koler’s urban art, including Daniel MacLloyd with a giant octopus entitled “Deep Sea”.
In 2019, some 31 artists created murals on facades of mostly uninhabited houses, a farm and the still functioning post office. The project was led by Raphael Gindt, a native of the town.
The idea was that the paintings would remain there until the buildings were demolished, but if you visit the town, you’ll see most, if not all, are intact.
Gindt has a unique style, and he’s fairly prolific, with portraits dotted all over the country, captivating not least for their colour and movement.
When the city opened its skatepark it invited Stick to decorate one wall. Other artists (who had to obtain a permit – where’s the rebellion in that?) decorated other parts. Another skatepark (and storage depot for the Red Cross), former abattoir D’Schluechthaus in Hollerich, is now a public gallery for street artists.
The artist Sader has helped the pupils of Gaston Diderich elementary school fill the blank walls of the playground, using spray cans, which he then blended into a seamless image. At Merl school, he worked with students in cycle 4 to decorate the walls of the sports hall. You can get lost in the fantastic undergrowth and trees at the Hollerich primary school, where Stick used drawings made by children to create a rainforest theme.
On rue Louvigny, Sumo has used a wooden structure in front of containers to paint a shadow of his creation on the ground and create an optical illusion that draws the passer-by to take a closer look. At Place du Théâtre, Rollinger’s work “one city – one world” is a 140sqm mural painted on the kiosk using a series of aluminium panels showing the diversity of people that call the city home.
Nearby on rue des Capucins you’ll find the work of graphic artist Spike, who restored and reinterpreted the mural by André Ménard in 2014 (originally painted in 1986). And if you’ve ever visited the British Ambassadors residence, you will have seen a mural by James Straffon. A British artist, he also painted several well-known cyclists on buildings in the city as part of a celebration of the Luxembourg leg of the Tour de France.
You can take a look at some of the murals and art installations in the city here.
In Dommeldange two walls located near the skate park behind the Parc Hotel Alvisse will be a canvas for urban street artists. One for professionals who should contact email@example.com for permission to paint one wall, whilst the second one is free to amateurs to paint without permission.
There are murals in numerous towns and cities in Luxembourg, to find them, check out the pages of the artists below and then go discover them.
More urban street art in Luxembourg and the greater region can be found here. Below is a trailer of Alain Tshinza’s documentary “Hamilius”, a film about hip hop, dance, and street art in Luxembourg, released in 2010.
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