Graffiti and Street Art in Paris

4 minutes of reading
article published on 19/04/2023

Street art, a long marginalized urban art, is now a full-fledged art form with many artists who draw their graffiti, stencils, paintings all over the walls of the world. Some even create moving or life-like art using videos and 3D representations. The result is a daily dose of joy for viewers like us! We’re going to take you on a little tour of the history of street art and the works that adorn Paris, and of course, we’ll throw in a few extra tidbits of stories and fun along the way. Shall we?

Street art, a bit of history

Painting and writing on walls is nothing new! Yes, our prehistoric ancestors expressed themselves and told stories by drawing on the walls of their caves. Later, Romans used graffiti to share political opinions and juicy town gossip. Fun, right? But that was a long time ago. If you were to fast-forward to a more recent period, the 20th century in Mexico, to be exact, then you’d be privileged to see many beautiful painted murals adorning the walls. Fast-forward further to the 1960s, stencils, graffiti, and other forms of street art were born in this decade in Philadelphia, an icon of urbanism in the United States.

Cornbread was a legend in the world of street art who launched the “Graffiti writing” movement with his sidekick Cool Earl. The story goes that Cornbread, who was a very shy boy, decided to declare his love for one of his friends by writing “Cornbread Loves Cynthia” all over the walls of his neighborhood. Pretty romantic, huh? The young man inspired many other teens to follow his lead in writing messages on the neighborhood’s walls and is, therefore, considered the world’s first modern graffiti artist. From a simple tag that is similar to a signature, artists moved on to authentic artistic creations. The trend eventually arrived in New York, but was quickly treated as a crime, and, unfortunately, the law got involved at this point. Like hip-hop, the members of the street art universe were forced to create their own rules, so they could continue to create, transmit messages, challenge authority, push boundaries, and express themselves. Street art was a new form of art that would develop until conquering the largest cities in the world, including Paris, in the 1980s.

Although street art was at the beginning considered subversive, even illegal, today, some artists have agreements with town halls to beautify their cities with their creations. We’ve come a long way, baby! The best way to see this beautification is to go and see it for yourself by immersing yourself in the world of urban art with this fantastic audio tour on Street Art.

In short, as you’ll see, street art is now anchored in our daily life, all around us, in our streets, on our walls, sidewalks, bridges, and facades. These days it is an art form in its own right since you can easily find it in galleries, museums, pop-up expos, and other places related to art. Perhaps unsurprisingly, urban art has become a way for certain brands to reach new audiences. Several fashion brands have collaborated with some of the most famous artists, such as Banksy, Keith Haring, JR, Alex Monopoly, and others. Others have taken inspiration directly from artists’ interpretations of their brand. Louis Vuitton’s take on Zev’s art, sported by fashion icon Billie Eilish, was specifically memorable. This could lead to more than a few discussions on artketing (art and marketing).

Paris, a must-see if you want to admire street art

The French capital is also adorned with its own urban works. Several districts display sublime frescoes, particularly the Butte aux Cailles, located in the 13th arrondissement. A rustic spot with a small village atmosphere lined with narrow streets and dotted with charming little squares. We could say that it’s THE spot to visit if you are a fan of street art. To admire them and learn more about their history, click here on this walk on the theme of Street Art. You will discover the work of the Spanish artist, Pejac, who was inspired by a Manet painting, or the massive mural that Obey made in tribute to the victims of the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. With monumental works that will blow your mind, you won’t want to miss an inch of the most beautiful and inspiring creations made in this area. In short, this open-air museum is worth a visit! And that’s not all: as a bonus, you can opt for a little takeaway drink at ……., to thoughtfully sip while you stroll along! Pretty nice, isn’t it?

Street art, a few fun facts…

To make your stroll more exciting, here are some handy bits of info to guide you on your trek through the city of lights. They’re equally impressive when you want to wow a fellow Parisian or whip out some little-known trivia at a party with friends!

Have you ever seen these tiny alien crabs made with mosaic tiles on building corners around the city? You know the ones we’re talking about! An artist name Invader makes them, and there are 3870 in the world spread over 79 cities, including Miami, Bangkok, Sao Paulo, and of course, Paris, which hosted the very first work of the artist. 

Some artists use invisible ink as paint. What’s more? It appears in ultraviolet light or the dark.

Keith Haring, a famous artist in the pop art and street art world, painted a message of peace on a part of the Berlin Wall in 1986. He adorned one hundred meters of the wall near Checkpoint Charlie, a border post between East and West Berlin.

Do you know the work “Coexist”? This message of peace linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict created in 2001 in Jerusalem by Piotr Mlodozeniec, was not registered with any copyrights. The reason? Other artists can appropriate it without consequence and continue to spread this message of peace. We love this one!

This was just a summary of the world of street art. To learn more about the world of urban art and see it for yourself, just take out your Rewind app and follow the guided walk The street art of Paris. Don’t forget to take plenty of pictures!

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