Photographed only with a mask covering his entire face. Filmed only if his voice is distorted. No interview audio recordings are allowed making journalists’ work difficult as they have to jot down tirelessly all that the artist says.
Asking journalists to conduct an interview without the help of audio recordings is certainly not the norm in Brazil or Latin America but perhaps not as hard as telling them they will be unable to reveal the age, name or any of the subject’s personal details. Yet this was exactly the challenge faced by the Sherlock Communications art and entertainment team, while working with our client, north-American graffiti artist BiP.
Who is he?
BiP, an abbreviation for “Believe in People”, is an anonymous graffiti artist who grew up in a low-income family in the Bronx, USA. He has painted over 100 murals worldwide, in countries including the USA, Russia and Hong Kong. His work features distinctive historical personas and cartoons and takes inspiration from the local communities where he works.
This was the case for the mural Avenida Rio Branco, his first large-scale mural in Latin America completed in São Paulo in September 2018. It’s the product of four months of uninterrupted, solitary and arduous work on a building in the República neighbourhood of the city on Avenida Rio Branco.
Coverage for BiP’s the mural has appeared in some of Brazil’s leading publications, both print and online and was have widely shared globally.
Anonymous painter background
His background is marked by both difficulties and triumphs. His parents died when he was very young and was raised by his grandmother until he was nine when she passed away. He then lived with a friend’s family. This friend’s hobby – graffitiing the local neighbourhood, greatly influenced BiP – who always watched from a distance to avoid trouble.
BiP and his friend grew apart in their late teens. The artist focused on education and excelled, becoming an important executive in a leading US financial company. While his friend continued to live in the Bronx until he committed suicide after while dealing with serious depression.
This tragedy made BiP re-evaluated his life: he left his corporate job and ended up living on the streets. Here he began to experiment in graffiti, initially as an act of rebellion but also a tribute to his friend. Slowly his street art came to be recognized, appreciated and valued. Thanks to the help of someone who was interested in his work, BiP started to accomplish work on bigger projects. BiP’s work has become highly sought after and he has become famous, despite his anonymity.
With over 100 large-scale murals painted globally, from the United States, Russia and China, to several countries in South America. BiP ’s mural subjects range from historical figures, cartoons, to people in the local communities where is painting. This is the case of the mural that he graffitied in São Paulo in August 2018. This was four months of uninterrupted and arduous work in a building that is in the República neighbourhood, visible from Avenida Rio Branco. His work has been reported by the vehicles Veja São Paulo and Folha de S.Paulo media. Brazilian media frequently cover the artist and his work and he has an international following both his website (http://bipgraffiti.com/) and his Instagram account (https://www.instagram.com/bip_graffiti/).
What was the challenge?
His anonymity has motives: the artist asserts that art must be superior to the ego and being anonymous guarantees this.
Also, his unknown identity enables him to hear his works critics firsthand.
BiP’s philosophy is that, for the poorest, graffiti is a way of leaving a mark in the world, showing that they exist despite being invisible to most of society. It is a way to, somehow, control the environment where they live instead of submitting to its harsh reality. This is one of the main social functions of graffiti: giving people with arguably limited options the chance to show their art, despite it being often illegally.
“Within a few years, graffiti will become an art as much appreciated as canvas, and São Paulo will be the center of it all. I want to leave my contribution in the city to help it achieve this potential”, says the artist.
Graffiti – a story being drawn
Graffiti has been a street art form since the Roman Empire but its modern day formal emergence is identified on the streets of Paris in 1968.
It was popularized in the United States in 1970 as part of contemporary art and originally tied to hip-hop, and then spread throughout the world. In Brazil, graffiti gained popularity in the late 1970s and adapted with Brazilian style. Today, Brazilian graffiti has global recognition yet some consider it vandalism as think it visually pollutes public roads. However, graffiti has been gaining its place and increasing recognition in the art world.
You can also watch the videos of BiP painting here:
If you would like to learn more about our PR Agency in Brazil and Latin America and find out how Sherlock Communications can help you meet your objectives, do drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.