About the principles: Art in public space creates multiple opportunities to address directly a city and its specific circumstances. Therefore, it provides an ideal backdrop for artistic exchange and intercultural dialogue. Conquer the Concrete is a maiden venture towards a movement of street art, currently a rare occurrence, in Chennai. Spread across a fortnight (20 January-7 February 2015), five international artists invited from Germany, the USA and Spain will collaborate with Indian street artists and cinema hoarding painters. The vivid result of their joint efforts will be huge wall paintings in the public space all over the city.

The rationale is to make art accessible by showcasing it in the heart of the city thereby transforming the places of interaction into new meaningful social spheres; to create publicity and awareness for civic participation in the public realm and to reach a broader public that doesn’t, usually, frequent galleries or museums.

The natural second step is to give back to the upcoming artists of Chennai by creating capacity-building frameworks. Conquer the Concrete brings learning opportunities that empower young artists of the city to use the public space as their field of work. We developed a week-long intensive programme for art students and young artists on ‘Art in Public Space’ with a focus on Street Art.

About the city: Like in other megacities, Chennai’s urban development is characterized by the fact that infrastructure cannot keep pace with the economic development and the demographic growth. While upgrading projects for public and private transport take their time, in the interim, an insufficient roadway and public transport network struggles to cope with the fast growing demands. The concrete walls that will be “conquered” by the artists will clearly reflect the current urban development and the ongoing changes. The goal here is to not only portray urban development and its associated challenges in Chennai but also to enlighten the need for public participation in processes that tend to disregard basic human needs. In short, using `Art` as a tool to establish vibrant communities – thereby bringing creative vision and aesthetic potential to everyday life in the city.

About tradition: Conquer the Concrete also highlights a key Indian phenomenon. Until a few years ago Chennai, as many other Indian cities, witnessed prominent hoarding paintings. Public spaces were dominated by the art of these, often nameless, film hoarding painters, who created massive paintings that colored the city for decades. A significant aspect of this project is to initiate a dialogue between this dying out tradition in our city and emerging street art from different parts of the world. In this sense, the Conquer the Concrete is not just homage to the hoarding painters, but also a landmark as it is the first significant urban art project in the region.


Anpu Varkey (Delhi),
Amitabh Kumar (Bangalore),
Artlab (Chennai),
Axel Void (Miami),
Base 23 (Berlin),
Look (Berlin),
M.P. Dhakshna (Chennai),
Note (Berlin),
Okuda (Madrid),
Paintbox (Chennai),
Ranjit Dahiya (Mumbai)
SatOne (Munich),
Shilo Shiv Suleman / Fearless Collective (Bangalore),

Curator: Georg Zolchow

A project by: Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Chennai and Chennai City Connect

Supported by: Highways Department of Tamil Nadu, Corporation of Chennai, Anna University, Southern Railways, Stella Maris College and others.


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