Paint the town with umbrellas, by Francesca Buonpane

Some brilliant stunts catch our attention and remain fixed in our memory. An advertisement wins when it becomes iconic, when it is re-proposed in other different places or contexts. This is what happened in the case of the artistic hanging umbrellas in Portugal, now found all over the world, from London to Jerusalem. If you don’t know what I mean, google “street umbrellas” to take a look but then come back here and go on reading.

Everything started five years ago in a small street of Águeda, a municipality in Portugal, on the occasion of the Agitágueda Art Festival – which usually takes place in July – thanks to Sextafeira produções, an association that promotes and develops urban spaces. For this specific event, the Sextafeira team created installations in different parts of the city, mostly inspired by the fairy character of Mary Poppins, trying to bring colour to the grey urban areas. As you can see on their website, the most popular installation was the hanging umbrellas: the impact on the people of Águeda has been so strong that this installation has become a recurring feature during summertime.

Apart from an obvious increase in tourism, this installation caught the attention of the international press, earning Sextafeira a fortune. In the past five years, it has been recreated in London, Bath, Dublin, Zurich and Jerusalem in different combinations of colours and for different occasions (here you can find a gallery of photos). As you can see, it has had great success very time, with consistently positive feedback.

The installation has been especially successful  in Italy. First of all, in Bagni di Lucca, where one hundred umbrellas floated up from one of its most important streets, via Umberto I. Milan followed, during its highly popular Milano Fashion Week, and so did Castel del Piano in Tuscany, Ferrara, Belluno and Iglesias.

This entertaining and colourful idea is being adopted as an annual event in a number of places across the world, especially during springtime and summertime, and for sure many more such events are yet to come.

It would be good to have an increasing number of ads like this so as to add a little bit of lightheartedness to our ordinary, everyday lives, but also to avoid the triteness of stereotyped advertisements.

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