Artists & Authors, La Flâneuse, Wanderlust

Take it to the Street

Paris’s museums are legendary. And while it’s true that you could spend months exploring the insides of some of the most famous museums in the world and still not see everything Paris has to offer, a person doesn’t need to stand in line or pay multiple entrance fees to see some pretty cool art. You can find some of the best art out there on the streets of Paris.

On virtually every city street I wander, I spot some sort of street art — ranging from graffiti to murals to tile art to to 3-D sculptures to simple, hand-written scrawls. While this form of art has underground roots and much of what you see is more subversive in nature, in Paris there are multiple officially designated public spaces, murs d’expression,  where artists are commissioned to create and install pieces.

Some of the work you’ll see is signed, though most seems anonymous. Some of it is clearly the work of true artistry, but much of it is raw and messy and amateurish. For me, these past few months I’ve been captivated by it all, for what it says about a human need for preservation. In my eyes, street art is a sort of modern-day petroglyphs, the creator’s way of leaving behind a message, a statement, a reminder that they were once here. 

One of the fascinating things about street art is watching it evolve. Stare at a wall long enough, and you’ll start to notice the layers of art past; walk past that same wall over the course of a few weeks, and you’ll see the future emerge. Overnight a mural gets tagged with graffiti; the shredded remnants of a poster from last month cling to cold concrete as this month’s offerings get placed on top. A alley wall becomes a landing strip for multiple creators, in harmony or in conflict, each person adding his or her own signature of sorts — an image, a word, a phrase, a sticker. 

I won’t pretend to be an authority on street art. Below I’m simply going to share my picture journal of some of the art I’ve collected these past few months. Whenever possible, I’ve included a link to a source for the artist and/or the original piece as most of what I saw is showing obvious signs of decay.

I’ll begin by sharing with you some of the pieces I’ve gathered in the past few weeks in my own neighborhood, le Marais. (The first image at the start of this post is one of my favorites — from Place des Vosges.) 

Tile mosaic art, the work of urban artist, Invader, is all over Paris. I found this early Christmas-Eve morning.
A 3-D piece in le Marais — loved her glasses! I regularly see art made from bicycles, mirrors, or other objects.
I see simple chalk drawings like this all over — Soyons Fous (let’s go crazy!) is a common phrase.
One of my favorites — also on Christmas-Eve. I love how the different pieces create a larger image (for me it all comes together)
More simple displays with words — I liked the use of the building as a sort of display.
Cool image just down the street from my apartment. Artist: Mr Renard
One day this corner by my apartment looked like this…
…a few days later it looked like this! The streets are always evolving.
Legendary mural by Jef Aerosol near the Georges Pompidou center (my own artistic spin on photographing it from a few years ago!)

Of course, every neighborhood in Paris has a plethora of street art, so I decided to venture away from the center to see what I could find. For this next bunch of photos I took a walk starting in the 20th Arrondissement through the 11th and back to le Marais. I’m including my basic route if you want to pull up a map. I started on Rue de Cascades, a charming and otherwise quiet street, and slowly made my way over to tiny Rue Laurence Savart and then Rue du Retrait. Next, I headed up Rue de Ménilmontant to the intersection of Rue Oberkampf/Rue Saint-Maur, making a detour on Rue Julien Lacroix to see the large-scale murals on Rue de l’Eysée Ménilmontant and Rue des Maronites.

First piece on Rue des Cascades (I don’t see a signature!)
On a small side street off of Rue des Cascades.
Rue des Cascades
Piece by Mosko et Associés on Rue Laurence Savart
One of my favorites from the day on Rue du Retrait — I love the use of humor and playfulness with color. (Signed Mr. Pee!)
René Magritte and Frida Kahlo on Rue du Retrait
Slowly making my way over to to Rue des Maronites — at Place Maurice Chevalier
On Rue Julien Lacroix — it’s fun to wander before the shops and restaurants are open; you never know what you’ll discover!
Mural by No Rules Corp — on Rue de l’Elysée Ménilmontant
This massive mural runs along Rue des Maronites in the 20th. It’s tagged with graffiti, but you can see the original image (by artist Hopare) here.
Another section from the mural above.
On a side street off of Rue Oberkampf (now we’re in the 11th).
Le Mur on Rue Oberkampf is a designated space for artists in a hip and trendy neighborhood. This is what I saw on January 3 — below see the makings of the next installation from January 6!
Saturday morning art installation — Le Mur on Rue Oberkampf. The art changes every couple of weeks.
I included this because this spot (on Rue Saint-Maur) was suggested in my online research for street art. The original piece is by the feminist street artist, Kashink. You can see, though, how the original piece has been taken over by graffiti. I suppose that’s the nature of urban art. Check out the link to her other work, though!
Another piece just down the street on Rue Saint-Maur.
Rue de la Fontaine au Roi had another massive mural (of multiple artists). The street was all dug up with construction, but I managed to get a couple of photos.
Rue de la Fontaine au Roi
Rue de la Fontaine au Roi

My next day’s wanderings took me over to the 18th and 19th arrondissements for a straight-line walk along Rue Ordener to Rue Riquet. The enormous wall on Rue Ordener is a bit chaotic but in a good way — with a mix of tagging and more representational art. I was that crazy lady stepping into the street, bypassing busses, to literally photograph the entire wall (I would predict that it changes almost daily). Rue Ordener becomes Rue Riquet, which crosses over the railroad tracks coming in and out of Gare du Nord. The wall here is a designated space for artists. After I crossed the bridge I turned on to Rue d’Aubervilliers, and was struck by the enormity of the mural — at almost 500 meters it’s the largest dedicated space in Paris. The original installment was made in 2015 in honor of Rosa Parks and featured multiple international artists (most women). It looks like some of the original mural is still intact (though I’ve been struggling to find many of the artists’ names).

Wall on Rue Ordener
I thought this was interesting — what looks like multiple signatures all in the same spot.
The dimension on this and the use of color is crazy! Love it!
There’s so much happening here — on the wall on Rue Ordener
Rue Riquet — bridge crossing the railroad tracks
Rue Riquet — by artist PBoy.

 

Another piece by PBoy at the corner of Rue Riquet and Rue d’Aubervilliers.
Work of Kashink (who I mentioned above!) The flyer isn’t by the artist, but it’s a poem I roughly translated: I have long memories. From a sandbar on the horizon. Is it me? Or who has traveled most oceans? I lost the thread of my own story. My skin is flaking with so much salt. And my voice derails. I’m pretending, though. To hold on.
More from the Rosa Parks wall.

A huge image I split in half for you!

I’ll gather more street art in the upcoming months to share with you. Do you have a favorite? Let me know your thoughts below!

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8 thoughts on “Take it to the Street

  1. I love these! They’re all so different. I also love how calm and accepting you are about the changes, both sanctioned and unsanctioned. I think they would break my heart.

    Mostly, though, this post makes me wish I could come to Paris for a walking tour of street art — led by you!

    1. Thanks! I’d wanted to do this post for a while and was stunned by what I uncovered once I actually started doing some research.

      I’d love to talk to the artists about their thoughts on this all — it seems, by nature, a constantly evolving medium, something temporary (though some of the pieces I saw have been there for months, even a couple of years). It’s the layers that make it interesting to me, anthropologically.

      We can do some searching for Street Art in Venice! We’ll have so much fun exploring together 🙂

  2. The temporal aspect makes me think of sand art, and chalk art…again, there and then gone, either gradually or all of a sudden. But then, any artist must feel some sense of loss when a work is sold, right?

    Yes, street art — and street everything — in Venice! 🙂

    1. It’s hard to know — the temporal aspect seems an inherent part of it all, and in some ways that makes it feel alive in a way that art hanging in a museum doesn’t feel. The subject of ownership also came up in my reading (it was a story about someone who wanted to remove a Banksy piece from the landscape and sell it). When you put something out there in the public realm (signed or unsigned — or perhaps signed but only with a persona, so still anonymous in a way) who owns it? Who controls it? Who maintains it? Heck, who (or what) defines it as art?

  3. TJ – you’ve captured such exquisite images and written about their fragility and permanence so elegantly. What a wonderful way to sip a warm cup of coffee on this rainy Oakland morning. I love the zest in these murals – both yours for noticing and the artists’ for creating.

    1. Oh, thank you dear Kland! I’m glad you enjoyed these. It’s such a fascinating art medium to me, and I was thrilled to be able to share my observations with everyone. XO

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