A couple picks their way through the rubble of an abandoned building. Among the broken glass and the crumbling walls, something beautiful is waiting to be discovered.
The place looks as if nobody has set foot inside it in years. But as they explore the empty rooms, they realize that someone else has been there fairly recently, and they have left an astonishing mark behind.
The explorers in question were the Reddit user known as sneakylawyer and his girlfriend. The pair participated in this particular urban exploration in Ronse, Belgium in 2014.
Ronse is a small city in East Flanders with a handful of sights that might attract tourists. However, none of these were what captured the adventurous couple’s imagination.
Instead, they found themselves drawn to an old, abandoned building. It wasn’t much to look at; a drab, concrete structure with almost every window smashed in.
In the past, the building had been a school where students trained to be nurses. But then the school relocated, and the building lay empty for ten years.
As sneakylawyer and his girlfriend approached the building, they saw a message scrawled in black paint over what would once have been the entrance doors. “There’s beauty in destruction” it read, and it proved to be an appropriate portent of what was to come.
Inside, they found abandoned corridors and rooms littered with trash and junk. But in the middle of all this chaos was something totally unexpected – wall after decaying wall of stunning artwork.
They were amazed to discover a whole gallery of stunning street art, hidden away where only the most curious of urban explorers would ever find it. All the pieces seemed to be produced by one artist – known as Pete One – and covered a diverse range of subjects and styles.
The artist was clearly a fan of Batman, as the comic-book character and his various allies and nemeses featured heavily on the walls. In fact, the artist almost seemed to prefer depicting the franchise’s more nefarious characters to its heroes.
One entire wall was dedicated to the evil Joker character in various guises, while sinister villain Bane appeared in another piece. Another featured some of the femme fatales of the comics, with the likes of Poison Ivy and Catwoman posing alongside other key characters.
Of course, the Dark Knight himself didn’t get overlooked, with an imposing portrait featuring him surrounded by his trademark bats. And it wasn’t just characters from the Batman comics that the explorers found lining the walls of this hidden gallery.
The titular duo from television series Pinky and the Brain also got a look-in, as did DC Comics’ character Supergirl. Plus, there was a mural dedicated to Sin City, the graphic novel by writer and artist Frank Miller that was made into a movie in 2005.
There were additional artworks without such a direct connection to popular culture, however. In one piece, a skeleton looms toward an empty doorway. In another, a figure appears to peer through a tiled wall, piercing eyes keeping watch on the trespassers who have ventured into its realm.
A particularly poignant piece features a beautifully realized butterfly painted large across a wall. Beneath it is written “a broken butterfly never flies again.”
Fortunately, sneakylawyer and his girlfriend captured plenty of images of what must be one of the world’s most unusual galleries before uploading them to the internet for all to see. But what of the man behind the art?
Born in 1982 in Ronse, Pete One began delving into the world of graffiti in 1999. Part of the so-called Ai-Lab crew of artists, he is known for his portraits of iconic characters from the world of fiction.
According to the street art and graffiti website FatCap, he hopes to one day travel the world, creating art in unusual places. He favors large canvases such as water towers and even windmills, which perhaps explains why he found it hard to resist the expansive blank walls of Ronse’s abandoned nursing school.
It’s obvious to anyone looking at the photographs of Pete One’s work that he has talent in abundance, and sneakylawyer’s images have taken the internet by storm. After posting them on Reddit, they were picked up by websites everywhere – with even the Belgian newspaper L’Avenir carrying the story.
Reddit users, meanwhile, were blown away by the artist’s skills, praising his ability to faithfully recreate the comic’s original artwork on such a large scale. Many even felt that the work was so good that he should be given a job in a studio as an animator or a storyboard artist. But for now, Pete One’s incredible artwork remains hidden away in an abandoned building, subject to an unknown fate.