Mauro Pallotta aka Maupal, Roman Street Artist
Mauro Pallotta aka Maupal, is an exciting contemporary street artist who was born in Rome and still lives in the Borgo Pio area, next to Vatican City. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, immediately revealing his innate talent for drawing. In the last few years Mauro is among the most represented Italian artists internationally. In 2014, his work was streamed on the big screens of Seoul, Korea and in 2016 his graffito "The Yoga Queen", a tongue-in-cheek representation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, proved a great hit in London.
Why the move from fine art to street art?
“I have chosen street art because it is able to bring the artistic language to a greater number of people. I always try to say what I think, trying to synthesize the subject in question and always adding a touch of irony and lightness. Curiosity and lightness are the basis of everything, but not only. My art technique is based on three fundamental elements: my personal feelings, technical knowledge and current affairs.”
‘SuperPope’ graffito: On a cold night in January 2014, Pallotta painted Pope Francis in the likeness of Superman carrying a black briefcase bearing the word “valores” (Spanish for values), on a wall in the Borgo area near St. Peter’s Square. It went viral after his image was tweeted by the Vatican Communication account. Pope Francis received the artist in audience a few days later and Pallotta gave the Pope a small reproduction of his image.
In 2016 Pallotta’s ‘Street Pope’ image (depicting the Pope painting peace signs on the wall with a Swiss Guard keeping watch) was removed within hours and again, the image went viral. The “Decorum Squad of the City of Rome” arrived in a maroon van carrying city sanitation workers, who blasted the artwork off the wall with high-pressure water sprayers. They were heavily criticized by local media after the incident for removing the popular art but allowing unsightly graffiti to remain around the city. Pallotta remains speechless as he surveys the remnants of his work.
In addition to the large mural style streetart created under the pseudonym of Maupal, Pallotta is a champion of ordinary heroes and recognized that it wasn’t enough just to paint the Pope. With the backing of Vatican Communications, Pallotta produced the Ordinary Heroes t-shirt to raise money for charity. Pallotta also hopes that the people who wear the t-shirt become spokespeople for the values of humility and compassion that Pope Francis represents. Further, in the Borgo area of Rome, if you look closely you will see local ordinary heroes depicted in miniature outside their residences and places of business. This is just one of the many ways that Pallotta supports his community.
Another is by painting murals to beautify the places where Rome’s homeless are squatting. On Saturday, September 8th I followed Pallotta to the Trastevere neighborhood in the heart of Rome where many homeless live on the narrow cobble-stoned streets among the beautiful ancient buildings. One of these homeless, Roberto, talked openly at his local coffee bar about wanting to have a nice entrance, instead of the graffiti-covered gate that greeted him daily. Bar owner talks to his friend Pallotta. Pallotta talks to another artist and friend Manuela Merlo. A week later Pallotta and Merlo spend their Saturday creating an entrance fit for a king and a homage to the XIII District of Rome, Trastevere, and its symbol – the lion. I enter the scene after the artists have been hard at work for a few hours. They call out to Roberto and introduce us. He graciously invites us in. Inside the gate is a mismatch of old furniture and eclectic pieces but the yard is spotless and organized. Instead of having just met, Mauro and Manuela seem to be old friends with Roberto. He comes out every 30 minutes to document the changes to his front gate and have a chat. Then he goes back inside to have a nap. Every time he comes out he seems to stand a little taller, delighted with the facelift that Mauro and Manuela have given his humble abode.