tour was complimentary, but opinions are all my own
who: Street Art Paris
what: guided walking tour, discover street art in Paris
where: Belleville (meeting point 107 rue Oberkampf)
why: Discover Paris from a different angle and learn interesting facts about Parisian street art and artists (local ones and visitors)
Is all graffiti vandalism? Is all street art graffiti? What exactly is street art anyway – and is it really an important part of Parisian culture?
For centuries, the city of Paris has been an inspirational and educational source for creative souls and have attracted artists from all around the world. As a result, Paris has acquired a reputation as the “City of Art”. The city is known for the famous art displayed in the famous Louvre and Musée d’Orsay and the famous architectural style of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomph. Mainstream community have mixed feelings about the city’s street art – and some may even refer to it as vandalism. Thankfully, times are changing. History is changing. And recent events have made it more clear than ever that we need the freedom of opinion and expression. And what better way to express yourself than through art? Isn’t that what the famous paintings displayed in the Louvre were all about, as well? This is why it’s important that you take a minute to appreciate the underground creative community. This is the art of today.
107 Rue Oberkampf, the guided tour’s meeting point. This is no coincidental address. This is the location of Le MUR (the wall), which once was a billboard site – now a contemporary urban art spot which has since 2007 been an officially sanctioned street exhibition space. In France there are currently 14 walls like Le MUR. Twice per month an artist is commissioned to fill Le MUR with a new piece of art for the public to enjoy. We got there just in time for the transformation of an empty black wall to a fascinating piece by Toulouse-based artist Snake (visit the website of Le MUR or go to rue Oberkampf yourself to see the finished piece!)
I’m sure you’ve heard of the clothing brand OBEY. Founded by American street artist and illustrator Shepard Fairey, who first became known for his “André the giant has a posse”(OBEY) sticker campaign and gained wide recognition for his Barack Obama “Hope” poster in 2008. Today, Fairey has an impressive resumé with work included in the collections at the Smithsonian, the Victoria and Albert museum in London – and many others. We found André the giant on two different locations.
Chiotte is the vulgar slang word for toilet in French. Which is why the logo of local street artist Chiot is, well, toilets. You migh have to look up to see his art, as these colorful toilets are most often painted on chimneys. The artist works at night with absolutely no security and is a highly respected one in the community.
Kashink is one of the few active female artists in the French street art scene. Her signature style is the huge four eyed characters with thick lines and bright colors. She only paints men – and she paints them fat, hairy and often gay. This piece was painted illegally – at daytime!
Moving on to Rue de la Fontaine au Roi, popular site for street artists but most recently known as one of the sites for the attacks in November last year. Street artists made it their mission to recreate an atmosphere of peace and unity and draw positive attention to this street – which is very similar to what people did at Place de la Republique after the attacks, when they decorated the square with flowers, candles and letters to their loved ones. At the end of the day, we’re all the same, we all want peace and happiness. We just have different ideas of what our decoration should look like.
I don’t know who did this one, so if you happen to know – please comment below so I can credit the artist.
If you live in Paris, you may have seen these bicycles – well, what’s left of them – before. He calls himself Ride in Peace, a French artist and bike courier who fixed a lot of old bikes to use them for art displays like these.
This is the signature style of Manolo Mesa, a Spanish artist who paints with a stick and is famous for using the “ghost effect”.
I absolutely love this mural. The theme is Nepal and the art is created by Doudou Style and Pearl (the girl and the panda). French artist Pearl specializes in realistic portraits and finds inspiration in African art. Doudou Style is a Parisian painter, graphic designer, illustrator and animator.
Tucked in a side alley in Belleville, you’ll find Rue Dénoyez – the most important street in Paris for the graffiti community. The entire street is one big canvas and it is perfectly legal to paint there. Some of the artwork found on this street is simply amazing, like this portrait by Manyoly, an artist from Marseille who finds inspiration in photos she’s taken of women she met on her travels.
This one’s by Eddie Colla, an American artist known for his wheat paste and stencil art. He often paints humans with masks, like this one.
Place Fréhel, which is often referred to as “the missing tooth”, is a square that didn’t exist before the collapse of buildings on Rue de Belleville in 1986 turned it into a no man’s land. For a long time it was just a place without a purpose, but it is now used as a public garden and a canvas for street artists. The most famous art found on this square has been there almost ever since the year Place Fréhel became what it is. This piece is by French artist Benjamin Vautier aka Ben and the phrase written is French for “beware of words”.
This piece was painted by art teacher and painter Jean Le Gac and portrays a detective searching for x-street. I’m sure the joke must sound better in French.
And here’s a more recent piece. Titled “we are late”, by Pox.
Intra Larue is an interesting artist. This French woman gives a feminine touch to Paris and to all the places she visits – with her boob sculptures. These sculptures are always painted differently and placed high and low on random locations.
The city of Paris is also decorated with something else I’m sure you’ve noticed on various locations. Meet Invader , the artist behind the mosaic “pixel art” and the mobile application game that lets you collect points as you discover these little guys. Kind of like Pokemon Go, isn’t it?
Our guide, Virginie, took us to the Belleville park – a park you’d only really know about if you live in the nearby area. This piece is a commissioned artwork created by talented local artist Seth.
More by Seth (the maison de l’air building)
This powerful piece of art is by Wild Drawing, an Indonesian artist based in Greece. The piece was made to honor the victims of terrorism.
The tour guide obviously saved us some of the best for last, when taking us to see the mural with current theme “The dream”. This gorgeous piece by Hopare was done completely free hand.
Do you recognize this lady? It’s FKA Twigs. The piece was made by talented artist Alex .
Credits to Street Art Paris – for sharing all knowledge about these artists and their work. If you happen to be in Paris and want something fun and educational to do on a weekend – why not book a street art tour like this one? And if you’re a creative type interested in learning the art of graffiti, check out their graffiti mural workshops!