In late 2012 I had a brief insight into Parisian street art, and have been thinking about it ever since. Having become reasonably familiar with London and Berlin’s scene, it was great to be confronted by work from a hoard of new artists whose work I was almost completely unaware of.
While the heavyweights of the French/Parisian scene such as C215, JR, Jef Aérosol and (Space) Invader, are often considered la crème de la crème, it’s without doubt the remaining 90% of the active artists that add the flesh to the bones.
But street art in Paris felt like it had a different vibe to its German and English counterparts. I could never quite put my finger on what it was, though. Related but distinct. Familiar yet strangely alien.
Perhaps it was just the lack of awareness of many of the artists? Or maybe it was the mix of dilapidated vans covered from top to bottom in one giant tag piece sat with the elegance of Paris’ architecture as a monumental backdrop? I’ve still not gotten to the bottom of what made it so distinctive…
One of the places in Paris that probably added to this cocktail of equal parts bewilderment, fascination, and wonder has to be le M.U.R. – Association Modulable, Urbain, Réactif – a highly successful local art project whose sole aim was to promote contemporary urban art.
Founded in 2003 by Jean Faucheur it officially ‘opened’ the artist space, for which it is probably now best known, at the intersection of rue Oberkampf and rue Saint Maur in 2007. Since then the space has been used by le M.U.R. to showcase the best (not necessarily the best-known) artists on a rotation nearly every fortnight.
Street art is often described as an open air gallery accessible to all. It felt as though this was the embodiment of that cliché. There was something about its organisation and prestige, coupled with its proximity to life in 11eme. People passing, rasping Vespa scooters being parked directly in front, hip Parisians sipping espresso’s and chain smoking cigarettes in a way, it seems, only Parisians can.
Gazing back through the recent roster of le M.U.R. contributors, I see C215 followed by Epsylon Point. Poch (who incidentally had work in Edinburgh not so long ago) followed by Jef Aérosol. Smash 137 followed by ROA.
I can only imagine what it must be like to wander past this space and see it constantly evolving on a walk to work, or to and from a local shop, with guaranteed work from local and internationally renowned artists just sat there. Constantly, fortnight after fortnight, without fail. The next two to appear at the space are the outstanding Agostino Iacurci & MTO, both of whom work on very different scales…
Perhaps fittingly, given my blissful bafflement in relation to Paris’ street art, I’m not really certain how to finish this blog post.
But let it be said, street art in Paris is different. I need to go back.