We all know Paris for its historic sites and when you visit this city, it’s a must to visit as many of them as possible. The Notre Dame, Sacré-Cœur, Arc de Triomphe and of courseThe Eiffel Tower. It has all the ingredients you need for the typical, stereotypical Paris experience. But this city has much more to offer than just these beautiful sights. Street art provides an intimate insight into the life of Parisian today, and has primarily been a way of expression for the masses.
Photo essay by Evy Tjin A Ton
So, Paris is a free open-air museum! Even the smallest space between Montmartre and the Butte-aux-Cailles, is an invitation to create art. Today’s street art in Paris is very diverse. Many artists are attracted to the capital because it offers a huge exhibition. Complete surfaces are covered in colourful murals with graffiti emblematic of mischievous stencils, hip-hop culture, poetic collages as well as monumental murals covering many. For all the artists it’s an unwritten rule that when you take possession of a place you respect that it belongs to the artist. In this way, artists make the city an explosion of colours which elsewise would have been often grey and rainy.
Among all the beautiful street art in the 11th arrondissement in Paris. there is this special wall called le M.U.R. which is located at Rue Oberkampf.
Founded in March 2003, the M.U.R. is an association dedicated to the promotion of urban art. In the heart of the 11th arrondissement of Paris, le M.U.R. set up the Oberkampf Wall. What makes this wall different from most other street art walls is that it takes his creativity from different artists with the idea that the art always changes. So each year the wall presents 17 beautiful works of art, and every three weeks a new creation covers the previous one. In this way, the association offers urban artists accustomed to the streets, a privileged environment on the corner of rue St. Maur and Rue Oberkampf. As long as the artists have a link with the urban artistic logic, all techniques and modes of intervention are welcome. All contributions for the street art and installation are funded by le M.U.R.
Director, Amelie (40) also known as Amsted, has created the 354th art piece at le M.U.R.. She started with street art in 2019 after she graduated in Art therapy. She has a lot of street art around Paris and you can even still a recent piece she did under the bridge of Alma by the Eiffel Tower. “I get inspired most by nature and with my work, I’m trying to create my own biocenosis.” She definitely thinks that Paris has a unique way of showing street art to tourists, because of all the beautiful opportunities the city got for the artists. “I think that we shouldn’t take these traditional sightseeing’s for granted, because the amount of tourists that it attracts, gives us artists a lot of attention and opportunities.”
The 13th arrondissement
This southern part of Paris is full of street art, which started it in the early 70’s, when artists wanted to beautify this industrial district with mural paintings. Now, this part of Paris has turned out to be an open-air museum and attracts lots of tourists to especially walk around Boulevard Vincent Auriol.
One of the highlights you can find, is on Boulevard Vincent-Auriol 81, a beautiful mural from the Chilean artist Inti. ‘La Madre Secular 2’, is a secular depiction of the Holy Virgin Mary. The apple in her hand is Newton’s apple. Her neck and gloves are dotted, like a map of the sky with stars and planets, and the jewellery she wears is made up of skulls bearing the symbols of all religions. She is portrayed as the ‘Madonna’ of knowledge and the Universe, symbolizing scepticism.
3 Rue Esquirol is where you can find the incredible piece ‘Evelyn Nesbit’. Here you can see a woman on the façade of one building. She is the American model and chorus girl ‘Evelyn Nesbit’. It was made by the Barcelona-born stencil artist BToy, whose work often pays tribute to 20th-century strong female icons. The flowers in Nesbit’s hair represent both Nature’s beauty and human nature in a message of universality.
At 155 Boulevard Vincent Auriol, the piece on the left ‘Turncoat’, a portrait of a woman in vibrant colours, was made by the British artist D*Face. The style reveals the artist’s obsession for comic books.
James, who is a resident of the building, is a real fan of all the beautiful street art around the neighbourhood. “It brightens up the streets and might even attract people who otherwise would have never come here, which in turn ensures the economy of this area.”
Beneath you can see a beautiful piece of ‘Swed Oner’ who is an urban portraitist. This piece you can find in Rue Gabrielle in the 18th arrondissement. This is his favourite neighbourhood, because he loves that Montmartre is popular and lively. His work consists of meeting the other and then representing him on a wall in his city. “My inspiration comes mainly from the street and the people I meet there.” Coming from Graffiti culture, he very quickly painted walls, and his story began in the mid-1990s. His approach to meeting people on the street, photographing and painting them was born during a trip to Peru six years ago. As a rule, it takes him two days to make a wall.
“I think that in the coming years, there will be neighbourhoods entirely covered with art and others where it will be prohibited, which is already happening a little bit.” He believes that thanks to street art, we are living in a time that ensures that because the art is public and therefore free, there is no need to go to a museum or gallery. “Culture is coming to the streets and is now accessible to all and free of charge, it is a big step forward for equality.”
He thinks that street art has become so important that today cities have understood that it is becoming more touristy because of this. “I am always surprised to see the number of festivals that are constantly growing around the world. From now on it’s cool to have your street art district.” He says that more and more savings linked to this discipline are developed by the cities themselves or private structures. So people are not only coming for the standard seeing’s. “There is now street art tourism, it’s quite incredible!!”
Nowadays Paris is certainly not only popular for its landmarks. The amazing street art in some neighbourhoods in Paris are just the tip of the iceberg of all the wonderful art Paris has to show for. For many artists it’s one of the best places to bring art to surface in Europe, which will possibly continue to grow into the most colourful artistic venue. And who knows, maybe in a distant future you will visit Paris for its street art instead of the Eiffel Tower.