ReturnWe Were There - X: 1995 – Trans-Europe Export
ALL EYES ON BARCELONA: WALLS, TRAINS AND SPRAYPAINT
In the mid-90s, Barcelona was a magical destination for European graffiti writers. The permissiveness of the authorities and the lack of regulations to control graffiti in the city made it a small paradise that included several subway lines and overground railway systems, namely the Renfe and the FGC, in addition to acres of abandoned industrial areas.
When the Game Over store opened in 1993, visitors had a meeting point: a way to connect with the local scene, discover good spots to paint and hook up with local writers.
The 1994 Aerosol Art event also helped to foster an extensive network of connections that led to the creation of new magazines and the organization of extended summer excursions using the InterRail pass, a single pre-paid ticket that allows travel to all cities on European train lines.
INTERRAIL STOP NUMBER ONE
In 1995 it was common for a group of writers to appear each week with their backpacks at the Bunker store (formerly Game Over Shop) - Montana Colors' first official point of sale. The routine was simple: arrive in the city, buy paint, check into the hostel and go to paint as soon as possible. But Barcelona was a little different. Many preferred to make the city their first stop on the InterRail route, due to the price and quality of the paint that could be bought at Bunker. After several days painting in Barcelona, the InterRailers returned to Bunker to stock up on fresh paint to use on the rest of the trip.
This was the first example of the international export of Montana Colors, and an almost unintentional phenomena. Traveling writers became brand ambassadors. They painted with Montana in Paris, Berlin, Brussels, Milan, Bern, Amsterdam and anywhere else the rail ticket would take them. The brand would be recognised in the graffiti scene in each city. A domino effect resulted as yet more European writers flocked to Barcelona.
A SPONTANEOUS EXPORT PHENOMENON
Blef and Dafne were two writers from Genoa, Italy, who came to Bunker by way of the editor of AELLE Magazine, the first Italian publication that Barcelona Game Over Magazine would exchange photos with. They had previously visited the city to paint, but in 1995, their visits would become business trips as they came expressly to fill their backpacks with spray paint, returning home on the same day. Blef and Dafne bought paint for the writers in their city, and a rudimentary import route was set up.
Many other writers ended up doing the same, not all of them foreigners: writers from other Spanish cities where quality spray paint was hard to find came to buy in bulk.
“I got a Game Over magazine here in Switzerland and wrote Kapi letters to exchange photos and so a friendship began. The first time we went to Barcelona was in 1995, we were on InterRail and we wanted to visit several Spanish cities starting with that one. This is how we first got a taste of Montana paint and got to know the city scene first hand."
Bruno “Rayo" Corral
SWITZERLAND, SCOTLAND & HOLLAND
Loading backpacks and duffel bags had its obvious limitations. So the first entrepreneurs emerged who pictured importing paint in bigger way: buying directly and legitimately from the Montana factory - respecting international import documentation, minimum orders and so on.
Lucerne and Edinburgh in Scotland were the first cities to receive a formal export of Montana paint, through the Swiss writers Bruno Corral and José Navarro and the Scotsmen Adam Yowell and Chris Young. Soon after, orders came in from every other European country where graffiti had been established, thanks to writers’ relationships with their local scenes or shops that could move it on. Henxs Shop in Amsterdam is a great example. This pioneering store, run by Henk Kramer, started out as a market stall selling spray paint, and in 1996, began selling Montana products, establishing itself as one of the first stores outside of Spain that carried the brand. That same year, distributors began to spring up that would serve larger territories and supply several cities simultaneously.
“I’d place orders by fax and Jordi Rubio sent us a whole truckload that we welcomed at my cousin José “Spide” Navarro’s company in Lucerna, Switzerland. We made six or seven orders from 1995 to 1999. We stored the paint in my cousin's warehouse to hide the business from my parents since they didn't like the “graffiti thing”. We sold the cans to people from all over Switzerland who came to see us, many who painted trains and freaked out when they saw the range of colors. At that time in Switzerland, Sparvar was more common, but Montana was a very different quality and tone. Writers came to our town from big cities like Zurich, where we found the first shop that would take and distribute the paint. It was the first store in Switzerland to sell Montana. Through the store, the brand reached many more people because when we sold in our storage room, only those who knew about us came. We also sold the cans at hip-hop jams. We’d fill the trunk and the writers would buy from us right there. At the jams they did in the German part of Switzerland, lots of visitors came from Germany. I remember how some people from Frankfurt, who would later become the first distributors there, came across Montana aerosols for the first time, at a massive party in the city of Biel.
Over time, we ended up selling to writers from all the countries neighboring Switzerland, but mostly from Germany."
Bruno "Rayo" Corral
CUSTOMERS ON COACHES
In the second half of the 90s, when the distribution network was taking shape and it was no longer difficult to find Montana products in most of Europe, coach trips organized by writers from the north of the continent still appeared at the door of the Bunker store, almost exclusively to buy paint. Writers considered that taking a trip to Barcelona to load the suitcases with cans, paint in the area and return home was more worthwhile than buying the same paint locally thanks to transport and import costs.ShareJanuary 08, 2021