Any story of street art’s origins simply has to offer Paris as a Garden of Eden proxy. So, a cheap Eurostar and not so cheap 3 star hotel gave me 4 spring days to peer, peek and probe every corner to discover the magic of Paris’ street art. The photos here hopefully represent a decent sample of Paris’ wonderful street art from earlier this year as well as hinting at why Paris is so magical.
When street art first seduced me, the game of the name was stencils and in the UK, single layer stencils ruled. Single layer stencilism remains strong in Paris, certainly more prevalent than we see in the UK. Jef Aerosol is still visible around Butte de Cailles (13th Arrondissement) and many conserved specimens of Misstic’s stencils were found.
In 2008 we were blown away in London by the first visit of French stencilist C215, followed shortly after by Artiste Ouvrier. It was such a delight to chance upon some classic French mailboxes with art by C215, I had only seen these indoors in galleries before and I was pleasantly surprised to chance upon some Artiste Ouvrier, long overdue a visit as his last UK street art went up in 2009. The multi-layer stencil technique is still practiced to an extraordinary standard on the streets of Paris, in particular Ladybug Nantes’ pointillist stylings and the C215 influence evident in Sufyr’s art were particularly stunning.
In Paris mosaics are, to Londoner eyes, surprisingly common. A Parisian may be shocked at such surprise as Paris is the home of Space Invader and there are many artists clearly inspired by the Invader style.
In case you are wondering where the reference numbers for the Space Invader mosaics come from, you need to check out Space Invader’s smartphone game “Flash Invaders”.
Somewhere on the net – so it must be true – it says Mr Djoul “started out as a Space Invader reactivator”, a super fan who replaces or repairs missing or damaged Space Invaders. To just have that in the palmarès would represent a pretty incredible start to a street art career as the reactivation team were notoriously as secretive as Mr Invader himself.
There are also many mosaic artists creating images that don’t slavishly follow Space Invader’s lead
“C’est l’histoire d’un Manque” translates roughly as “the story of a miss”. Coluche was a comedian and actor who set up a food collection for the poor in the mid 80s, died young and the condition of society today replicates exactly the kind of poverty he strove against.
Beautiful hand drawing or hand painting is common on the Paris streets. Paris certainly has something special and different which we really don’t see on London streets
The internet seems to believe that Paris street art consists of nothing but murals. Try searching those three words, the results will be wall-to-wall murals (no pun intended). Hopefully the little kaleidoscope of art you’ve seen so far before conveys the reality that Paris has a far more diverse street art scene than those distorted “optimised” search results suggest.
Seth restores grinding Parisian streets to the childhood playground that wherever you may be we can recall from our carefree early years.
Murals can be described as coming in two forms, there are the ground level murals probably requiring a step ladder and a bit of time, then there are the towering multi story murals requiring whole entourages of painters, riggers, documenters, hoists and municipal and corporate support. Paris certainly is well blessed with the latter form of muralism, particularly around the 13th Arrondissement.
As well as the international roaming street artists who crop up on every continent doing mega murals, Paris has fantastic array of ground level muralists.
There will be more on murals but fearing that this post has already taken up too much of your time it’s probably best to save the rest for a second post. The vague plan will be to look at some of the more esoteric forms of street art found, there will be a trip into Paris’ equivalent of Leake St, we won’t forget paste ups and the very strong culture of miniature sculpture street art which is hugely abundant. There may also be something from an exhibition which outshines the “Beyond The Streets” exhibition seen in London earlier this year. Hopefully this will be in the not too distant future (it takes a while to sift and digest over 1000 photos)!
All photos: Dave Stuart
Paris Street Art Part Deux ICI