A 30,000-Square-Foot Olympics Mural May Just Be a Record
Olympians aren’t the only ones competing in Rio this summer. Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra (aka Kobra) is also attempting to break a Guinness World Record with his latest mural.
The work, entitled Etnias, covers more than 30,000 square feet of a formerly abandoned warehouse in Rio’s newly reinvigorated port district. Using a wild quiltwork of brightly colored geometric shapes, it portrays the faces of five indigenous men and women from five continents. (The five Olympic rings inspired the number of subjects.) The portraits depict the wizened faces of members of the Mursi, from Ethiopia; the Kayin, from Thailand; the Supi, from Europe; the Huli from Papua New Guinea, and the Tapajos, from the Americas.
“I wanted to show that everyone is united, we are all connected,” says Kobra. A healthy sentiment in this time of chaos and tension, in Rio and beyond. The project is an extension of his series called “Peace Outlooks,” featuring figures like Malala, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela.
Kobra and his team of four guest artists whitewashed the building, marked a grid pattern on the concrete, and then, supported by seven hydraulic lifts, used more than 1,500 liters of colored paint and 3,500 cans of spray paint to depict the 50-foot-tall, 620-foot-long artwork. According to spokesperson Mirella Rossini, Guinness’s judges will choose how to categorize the painting when the inspect it in a few weeks’ time, but the piece could soon be recognized as the largest spray painted picture in the world.
Kobra, a Sao Paolo resident, has created works in more than 20 countries, including portraits of John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Tupac Shakur, the Dalai Lama, and even Yoda on surfaces like smokestacks, industrial facades, parking garages, and apartment blocks. He got his start as a teenager when, after being arrested for vandalism (not for the first time), a judge recognized his talent and sentenced him to paint a mural on a police station wall.
The mural has become an important part of the port district’s “Olympic Boulevard,” a 1.9-mile strip in the city center that during the Games is hosting movies, live music, bars, food trucks, and nightly fireworks. The area was recently bolstered by the removal of the a three-mile-long elevated highway, the addition of a new light rail system, and the completion of Santiago Calatrava’s space-aged Museum of Tomorrow—a structure with a long, cantilevered white roof that looks like an airplane wing or a dinosaur mouth.
While the Games’ planned public art projects were abandoned for economic reasons, some artists have still managed to install pieces. They include two giant building-top sculptures of Olympic athletes by street artist JR and Mariko Mori’s Ring: One With Nature, a 10-foot-wide acrylic ring (inspired by the Olympic rings) perched over a waterfall in Brazil’s Cunhambebe State Park. Funds for Olympic Boulevard—an initiative organized by the city of Rio and paid for by private sources—helped pay for Etnias, which Kobra completed on July 30 following three months of 10-hour work days. Truly Olympian.
Now Kobra’s waiting for Guinness, which will send a representative to judge his work in the coming weeks. “I didn’t prepare the wall for this purpose,” he says, referring to the world record. But now he’s “counting the minutes for the team to get to Brazil and evaluate the panel.” If he gets his wish yet another World Record will fall in Rio—albeit after the games leave town.
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