CAPITAL CHRONICLE PT. 7. MURALS FROM HELL - greatest wall art in Riga. UPDATED 24.08.2022

With many newcomers in the last month alone, murals have become the new hotspot of discussions in Riga. Whether used to revitalize urban areas or evoke ridiculous prejudice, wall art is again (or finally?) receiving the attention it deserves. To celebrate the important and impressive examples of this urban art genre in Riga, we have collected a little selection of great, Instagrammable and yet existent contemporary murals around town.

A brief prologue

For most part of Riga's history, murals have been related to whether commercial or Soviet advertisement. 50 years prior to World War I, during the massive industrialization, walls became displays for Imperial Russian advertisements and shop signs painted around neighbourhoods, and very simply massive letters rather than anything poetic.

During the interwar period, walls continued to serve as billboards. Ads gained visualisations and were continued to be painted directly on plaster rather than today - hanged as PVC banners or mounted as overexposed screens. Some of the most iconic ones we can now enjoy are captured by the little known urban photographer for whom we have a superb story already, Nikolajs Hercbergs.

Ads on the corner of Barona and Matīsa ielas circa 1928. (c) Nikolajs Hercbergs.

During the Soviet times, though, as there was no capitalism, there also was no need for ads on firewalls. Instead, buildings became displays for socialistic symbology, anniversary announcements and social advertisement - "read books, don't drink and drive" etc. None of them are any different from other Soviet socialistic nations. However, by the end of the 80s until the millennium when the proletariat was allowed and then able to create their firms, some firewalls again became the platform of ad paintings. One of the survivors, a mid-80s LADA advertisement we also wrote about, became the matter of discussion whether such great examples of design, graphics and urban history are or aren't cultural heritage.

Lada advertisement from 1985 on Krāsotāju iela. (C) CAPITAL R, 2009.

However, none of this is purely artistic and only explains the road to contemporary murals rather than serves as examples. "Irrational wall" art was mainly related to some individual urge to whether draw something close to the heart or to make a decoration out of it. The ones visible to the eye are roughly from the same 80s and, from our perspective, don't carry much of an artistic value.

Wall painting on Tallinas opposite Zvaigžņu iela. Artist unknown, year unknown.

Starting from this millennium, the long awaited wave of new age artists grew up or entered Riga. And we are not talking about some hasty name tagging (usually without any artistic value). At most, this significant jump began with letter and character or trademark drawings rather than full size murals. However, because of them, streets of Riga began to have their own unique face, and the movement was launched by such artists as as KIWIE, VOUR, SAKI (54K1), SENE, TASE, TRON, DENZO (now ARBOR of whom we wrote about), Frost, Thobek, LazyBra, Faro, Johnny, and others. Some others, like Dainis Rudens (Rudens Stencil) or Holis established themselves in larger size. Several of them, e.g., KIWIE and Frost had exhibitions at Kaņepes Kultūras centrs in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

Some of the trademark characters. From left: KIWIE, Johnny, VOUR, ARBOR.

The first major and also publicly emphasized breakthrough took place in 2014. In 2014, Riga, while serving as the European capital of culture, was home for its first organized and legal street mural exhibition called "Blank Canvas". A number of various street and conventional artists as well as graphic designers finally had the ability to express themselves without feeling bad. During the event, the largest mural in the Baltic states was also born (picture later).

Another wave of outdoor murals could have happened in between 2014 and now when the Riga experienced the touch of place rejuvenation. Mixed with the function of creative quarters, many post-industrial or dilapidated areas became showrooms for established graffiti and wall art artists as well as hosted street art competitions and symposiums (look for "Draw Orgy"). Now some of the places are partially or fully gone, e.g. Andrejsala neighbourhood has no art left, whereas "Brasalona", once a promising post-industrial creative quarter, has a mélange of bits and pieces, suffering under the tooth of decay.

One of the walls at Brasalona with works from circa 2014.

Then, since 2015 until 2018 or so, many prominent street artists wanted to establish the longest legal graffiti wall in Baltics when one of the main bridges, Salu tilts, underwent reconstruction. It failed, and now it is still one of the best worst examples of unused potential. During the time, a magazine "Popper", dedicated to the contemporary illustration, was released, creating a wonderful microcosm and soil for great street art to come.

From 2019, the "Rīgas Satiksme" public transport company have commissioned a project "My Stop" (Mana pietura), aiming at 100 bus stops being painted by various artists in the following years. The project has been accompanied in 2020 by artists, who won another "Charge colours!" (Uzlādē krāsas!) competition to decorate electric substations in the city organized by the A/S "Sadales tīkls" electric communications company.

The quality of some pieces is definitely debatable as most of the works were not made by professional or practicing auteurs. But this has been another huge step to normalizing visual arts in Riga particularly in suburbs. A bigger threat here are tagger kids who mess up with artworks, yet the biggest - all the stops are so outdated in construction they will be replaced sooner than later. It also means many works will be lost forever - no matter how good they are.

One of our favourite artworks during the second year of "My stop" competition. Viesturs Holanders (Holis), 2020. Image by: Sondra Zaļupe.

Another notable event was the boom of NFT crypto-art market in 2021. KIWIE, one of the leading street artists in Latvia, was also one of the only ones to use the trend to establish new ways of selling artworks. Very soon the first collection was out in the market with another to follow, a physical NFT showroom was established (first in Europe), and KIWIE with his associates sold the first 6 works for 26,5 thousand dollars.

This year, in 2021, the next wave of street fine art events took place the city, partially thanks to Riga Summer Festival, the annual celebration in the city. Sanctioned exhibition appeared under one of the main viaducts in the city, many pieces appeared in neighbourhoods. Finally, the Kristians Brekte's unconventional, yet appealing work on a school wall in the Centre created an unprecedented, heated, yet necessary discussion about street art value and purpose.

With Kristians' resonating piece, we finally saw the constant meaning of street murals unfold - many of them have less a purpose to be beautiful rather than a greater purpose to emphasize what's going wrong with the society, education, art, city. And Kristians' work lured the rot, lack of competence, and an absurd amount of prejudice out from its deniers.

The Capital Chronicle Pt.7

Many great pieces are sadly gone, but this happens less and less since street art is not considered a temporary fix any more. But you are lucky - here is a concentrated, chronologically arranged selection of art you can see! Accompanied with a map it collects, in our minds, some great, influential, PUBLICLY ACCESSIBLE AND VISIBLE contemporary wall art in Riga (from this century). The list below will be updated, when our AI monkeys will evaluate the quality and relevance of more street art in town suggested by you!

Hanzas tunelis is one of the earliest playgrounds for street art exercises. It's mostly for graffiti letters and is still alive. The quality might vary, yet the persistence is celebrated. Various artists, circa 2004 - ongoing.

One of the oldest and also first larger contemporary murals that has still survived until today. Holis, 2010.

First large commission piece by Dainis Rudens, accompanied by other prominent street artists. Dedicated to the victory of BMX racer Māris Štrombergs, who won the very first Olympic gold medal in the given sports. Dainis Rudens (Rudens Stencil), SAKI (54K1), KIWIE, TRON, 2012.

"Gray Rainbow", one of the first large, privately commissioned murals in Riga. KIWIE, 2013. 

The breakthrough piece by the now prominent mural artist Dainis Rudens that also emphasized the need and ability to produce wall art in suburbs of Riga (in this case, Sarkandaugava neighbourhood). Dainis Rudens (Rudens Stencil), 2014.

An excerpt from the collection of many artworks commissioned or influenced by the "Tribal" brand store in the area where it was formerly located. Various artists, circa 2014 - 2017.

A piece, recreating the now lost design of 20 Latvian Lats banknote. Dainis Rudens (Rudens Stencil), Ēriks Caune (Thobek), 2014

The very first street artwork by this renowned painter created during the "Blank Canvas" festival. Paulis Liepa, 2014.

One of the international highlights, a hedgehog by this Belgian artist, during the "Blank Canvas" festival. ROA, 2014.

One of two, the largest piece by this Polish artist created during the "Blank Canvas" festival. Not in a good condition, but still holding on. M-City, 2014.

Another piece created during the "Blank Canvas" festival. Frost, Aigars Mamis, 2014. Image by Blank Canvas.

One of the main elements of the rejuvenated "Alekša" square at Sarkandaugava neighbourhood, created by this Italian artist during the "Blank Canvas" festival. moneyless, 2014.

Prominent multi-artist mural, commissioned by the city when reconstructing the local J.G. Herder Grīziņkalns high school. Various artists, 2014.

Still the largest mural in the Baltics "Sun, Thunder, Daugava" created during the "Blank Canvas" festival. Dainis Rudens (Rudens Stencil), KIWIE, 2014.

(now washed off) One of the few surviving pieces by a Danish collab at the unofficial "Mazā Kalna iela" gallery under the now-under-reconstruction Salu bridge. DAMN, REKS, RSC, LJSSA, 2014.

Mural located in the heart of the first Soviet microrayon "Āgenskalns pines". Ironically, almost no pines are left in the area. Unknown artist, 2016.

A mural commissioned by the motorcycle store "Motofavorīts". VOUR, LazyBra, 2017.

Shaped as a cigarette warning label, "This is only vandalism" was a well discussed and well visited piece when produced. Saki & Sene, 2017.

Excerpt from the vast collection of street art at Tallinas street quarter that has recently become the main display of everyone involved in urban drawing in Riga. Various artists, 2017 - ongoing.

Recreation of an Orthodox icon of Jesus Christ. Artist unknown, between 2014 - 2018.

A mural on the once famous hipster street, Miera iela. Artist Unknown, circa 2018.

A large underground mural ensemble, commissioned by the city to visually normalize the once called "Ražģevalka" or "stripper" tunnel infamous for its criminal activities. Features lyrics by a known pop song by "Astr'o'nout" dedicated to the life of Moscow suburb the tunnel connects the centre with. Sindija Kļaviņa (SKart), 2018.

A map, pinpointing the centre of Āgenskalns suburb as well as the location of the artwork itself. Kristaps Zelmenis, 2018.

An excerpt from a multi-element piece as part of RIBOCA contemporary arts biennial. Made on a several-hundred-year old house in a way to simulate historical, medieval murals. Inga Meldere, 2019

One of the most popular pieces at the Bus depot No.7 created during the first year of "My stop" project. Arta Raituma, 2019.

Another one of our favourites, at Preču-2 stop. The only piece during the first year of the "My stop" project created by an international artist, Bulgarian in this case. Aleksandra Kurilina, 2019.

The "Black-cosmic plasma" stop as created during the "My stop" competition. Viesturs Holanders (Holis), 2019.

A car-racing-inspired bus stop at Ratnieki dedicated to the nearby car racing course. Created during the first year of "My stop" project. BerGal, 2019. Image by: Richard Solomodenko.

A piece on the wall of Latvian Culture College, raising awareness to mental health and created in collaboration with OGLE movement launched by a family whose son committed suicide. KIWIE, 2020.

A painted electricity substation "Zeus" during the "Charge colours!" competition. Beata Putns, 2020.

Another work "COAL" in the series to bring awareness about unspoken suicide problems amongst teenagers. Managed in collaboration with the OGLE movement — Mental Health Organisation. KIWIE, 2020.

One of two stunning pieces at Ostas iela stop by this artist during the second year of "My stop" project. Eduards Dubrovskis, 2020.

Transformer succumbed to decay on Valdemāra iela. Artist unknown, year unknown.

The mural "Circus" at the backyard of Miit cafe that replaced an older one commissioned by the former Miit bike café. KIWIE, 2021.

The latest scandalous piece, stirring up emotions in purists, who claim this artwork, commissioned by the city and coordinated by the contemporary art foundation "Art Needs Space" (Mākslai vajag telpu), is a threat to children psyche. Instead, the mural pays respect to sketches by one of the most legendary Latvian painters, Džemma Skulme, and also quotes her in neon: "We are all earthworms, that need to cultivate the soil." Kristians Brekte, 2021

A multi-artist wall exhibition "Home feeling" created during the 3rd "Street Art Slam" event organized by the Totaldobže interdisciplinary group. Various artists, 2021.

A multi-artist exhibition "Patiltes galerija" under the Gustava Zemgala bridge, commissioned by the city during "Riga Summer Festival". Various artists, 2021.

A mural commissioned by the "Augnīca" community garden. Mārtiņš Aizpurvs (ARBOR), 2021.

Fragment of a large scale graffiti wall dedicated to the war in Ukraine and established within two weeks of the start of the event. Various artists, 2022.

"Together we are power" is dedicated to the war in Ukraine and commissioned by a furniture company "Kate" using the given building. Illustration - Beatrise Birina, execution Dainis Rudens, Ēriks Caune. 2022

Large and playflul abstract mural created for a real estate project "PAGALMS 87" surrounding the corner where this mural sits. Colortime, 2022

The latest addition to the mural scene in town, this one is commissioned by the city itself. It retells an old legend of Riga never being finished. Dainis Rudens, 2022.

To be continued!


  1. I love this website so much, im a Latvian my self and im just so happy to see these arts when they dont even exist anymore <3

  2. AMazing, thanks for all this info :)


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