When former basketball champion and artist Edi Rama became the mayor of Tirana and later prime minister of Albania, he didn’t neglect his athletic and artistic background. The sense of team spirit and art came together in the project Coloring Tirana, wherein the facades of the former state-residential complexes in Tirana were painted to improve well-being and social security. 

The typical bright red, purple, green, and pink quickly took the name of “Edi Rama colors.” Apart from the colors on the facades, there was no renovation of the residential buildings. The residents did not have a say in the design or the colors of their buildings, but they didn’t have to pay for them. 

A political statement

Coloring Tirana was part of a larger social project that included tree plantations, illegal building demolitions, and the historic city center’s preservation. This came with the statement “Art for social change”, a rather political slogan, as these changes had the underlying intention to prepare Albania to join the European Union (a claim that Bruxelles neglected in October 2019).

Edi Rama still profiles himself as an artist. He exhibited at Art Basel, the Venice Biennale, and Art Berlin, whereby Coloring Tirana was part of his portfolio. It goes a bit far to describe Coloring Tirana as Edi Rama’s personal art project, but it is in the least ‘related to’ Rama’s artistic practice. 

Is it acceptable for a politician to simultaneously practice art? Art is a medium that tends to operate in the sidelines; commenting and reflecting on society. When practiced by someone who makes that society, what consequences has this for both their artistic practice, as well as their political image?