Paris is a dynamic and very artistic city known for its great cultural diversity. Since the emergence of street art in France a few decades ago, the French capital has become one of the most important strongholds of street art in Europe. What is the history of Street Art in Paris and where can you see it?
What is the history of Street Art in Paris?
Street art as we know it today made its timid appearance in 1968 in France with the student revolts. At that time, graffiti painted with rollers or brushes and directly inspired by American street art was a real tool of denunciation for the French. However, it was not until the early 1980s that this new type of art really took shape and became popular in the country.
Bleck le rat, a graffiti artist and Jérôme Mesnager were the two pioneers of this art in Paris.
Then, the American Bando arrived in the French capital in 1982 and spread the “art of the New York subways”. Five years later he met another American called Jonone. His energy and passion for urban art gave French street art a new dimension.
At the end of the 1990s, Invader, a French street artist, made his mark with his mosaics, which he scattered all over the streets of Paris.
From 2000 to 2009, we witnessed the gradual recognition of Street Art with exhibitions of his work. First in Oberkampf in Paris with the M. U. R (Modulable Urbain et Réactif), then in Agnès B’s “galerie du jour” and at the Grand Palais with the presence of 150 international taggers. Finally, the group exhibition “Né pour briller” at the Fondation Cartier allowed this art form to be recognised as a real artistic movement.
What are the emblematic places of Street Art in Paris?
Wall paintings, stencils, anonymous tags, collages: Paris is full of urban art. Splendid or strange, these pieces can be found on every street corner.
However, some places are at the top of the list of the best places where you can discover Street Art in Paris. The specialist in the field is undoubtedly Stephanie Lombard, blogger of Wonder Brunette, who has been publishing “the guide to street art in Paris” since 2017.
This guide is very necessary considering the incredible amount of works it presents.
The 13th arrondissement of Paris: an open-air street art gallery
The 13th arrondissement is a must for Parisian urban art lovers. A veritable open-air museum, this place is constantly being enriched with various works. On the facades of the district, you can find monumental murals in very different styles. Some pieces are inspired by pop, others are abstract, illusionist, committed or poetic. One of the key works in this part of the city is on Boulevard Paris 13 and was created by the American artist Shepard Fairey. It is a mural in the colours of France, which takes up the famous motto so dear to the French.
One can also contemplate this magnificent mosaic several metres high which represents the famous doctor from the series Dr House. In addition, there are more than ten murals in the National Metro area, in Rue Jeanne d’Arc and on Boulevard Vincent Auriol.
Street Art Avenue: art along the Saint-Denis Canal
The Street Art Avenue is an interesting spot for urban art lovers. This 5 km long street art trail runs along the Saint-Denis canal and is full of various works of art such as stencils, graffiti, collages, etc. The setting is ideal for cycling or walking while admiring murals by Seth, Zest or Polar. This project, launched in 2016 by the Plaine Commune Grand Paris tourist office, now has over thirty masterpieces. And every year, 5 new works are added.
Downtown Paris: a Mecca for Street Art
The centre of Paris is full of works of art by various talented street artists. From the Halles district to Gainsbourg, the walls of this part of the French capital have become the playground of French and international artists who come to leave their mark. The Place Igor-Stravinsky is one of the most famous in the district. It amazes the many visitors who come to contemplate the impressive work left by Jef Aérosol. This 350-square-metre mural, created with stencils, represents the face of a man (Salvador Dali) inviting silence.
Since the death of the musician Serge Gainsbourg, tributes are often paid to him through graffiti, paintings and collages on the façade of his house in rue de Verneuil.
Belleville: Street Art in the villages of Paris
Belleville is the first district in Paris whose walls have been covered with urban art. Several places in this former village present magnificent works of art in various styles. For example, rue Denoyez with its colourful murals or Place Frehel with a monumental work by Jean Le Gac representing a detective on the hunt.
The Lasco Project: a rather surprising street art trail
Inside the Palais de Tokyo, there is a curious underground bunker whose walls are entirely covered with works of Street Art. Small or monumental, these murals have been created by more than sixty famous street artists and extend over nearly a kilometre. This programme, initiated in 2012, is dedicated to urban art and guided tours are organised every day.
The Val-de-Marne: an emblematic place for Parisian urban art
Parisian street art can also be found in the other departments included in the Greater Paris Metropolis, especially in the Val-de-Marne. Parisian urban art can be seen on the walls of several communes in this department. Vitry-sur-Seine is one of these cities and one can find different types of artistic creations (stencils, collages, paintings, etc.).
Who are the most famous street artists in Paris?
The history of street art in Paris has not been without the help of some local and international artists. Among these, we find :
Ernest Pignon: he is one of the pioneers of urban art in France. He was already exhibiting his works on the walls of the streets of Paris long before the emergence of this art form in the City of Light.
Invader: Franck Slama alias Invader is a world famous artist. Very famous in France, he has invaded the streets of Paris with his numerous mosaic works.
C215: whose real name is Christian Guémy, the artist is known for his poetic works and his representations of great men around the Pantheon in Paris. His most famous piece in Paris is a 25-metre mural showing a black cat on a blue background.
Miss Tic: She is known for her provocative puns and teasing drawings that she leaves all over the walls of the capital, especially in the Butte-aux-Cailles district.
Jeff Aérosol: He is also part of the first wave of street artists to invest the walls of Paris with urban art.
Paris is a city famous for its street art, with a multitude of works by great and talented artists on the walls of the capital. There is not a single area of the city where this art does not have its place.