Educational information: street art tours and creative workshops

Street art walking tour Paris Le MUR - street art parisMardi Noir (France) / Le M.U.R., 11é arrondissement

Street Art Paris gives students the chance to become a part of the project and discover the most incredible art movement of our time.

Focusing on the core Parisian street art areas, Oberkampf and Belleville, Montmartre in the north-east of the city, and the 13th arrondissement, on Paris’ Left Bank, our visitors are brought back to the birth of street art in Paris, at the time of the 1968 French revolution when students and faculty staff took over the prestigious École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-arts (École des Beaux Arts) at Saint-Germain des Près, in order to establish the Atelier Populaire, or Workshop of the People. This art studio went on to produce countless screen-printed posters, while declaring them, ”weapons in the service of the struggle”. By joining our guided walking tours and graffiti mural workshops, students are encouraged to explore critically artistic movements and techniques, debate on the ethics of the use of public space, French and international social, cultural and political topics and how they fit into the manifold works present in the streets on any one visit, the commodification of art by graffiti-street artists, and solo and group work in accessing imagination and artistic practice.

Who we are

In the 1960’s, French cultural institutions started welcoming the work of avant-garde artists. At the time, a change in public attitude towards modern art was observed. Part of the public was beginning to open up to contemporary art and its often rattling form and content. Similarly to some works by Manzoni, Ben or Michael Heizer, however, Street art can not be displayed in museums.

Our team is known for being relaxed and informal – we are not museum guards – but, our expertise is real, and our knowledge of the scene comes from the streets, and from the artists with whom we talk regularly.

2501 street art tour Paris2501 (Italy), 20é arrondissement

What we offer

– Belleville Street Art Tour

– Left Bank Street Art Tour

– Montmartre Street Art Tour

– Graffiti Mural Workshop

On the three tours we offer, students get to witness multicultural, socially diverse communities, which for different factors are rich in artistic production. The Left Bank tour, for example, weaves through the 13th arrondissement – renowned for housing France’s largest Chinese community – which is the city’s new mural district. The walk covers some of Europe’s finest commissioned public art by internationally acclaimed street artists, such as Portuguese artist, Vhils, C215, Jef Aerosol, Seth, Jace, Shepard Fairey. Students will learn the stories of the neighbourhood, including how a unique relationship between a gallerist, a politician and the community brings these beautiful artworks to life.

borondo street art paris 13eBorondo (Spain), 13é arrondissement

Detail on educational components

Paris’ unique history has shaped the evolution of its unauthorised public art. Starting in the late nineteenth-century with the advent of publicité billboards, artists were using the built environment to showcase their work.

Billboards still remain elemental in Paris’ street art, in the practice of billboard hijacking, or subvertising – called in French, détournement – where the original commercial message is altered to create a new ‘situation’. This reimagining of Paris’ paid advertising spaces is done for different reasons, and often there is no conscious attempt at détournement, rather the surface and location simply provides an excellent frame for sharing work.

Jace - Le MUR - street art parisJace (La Réunion), 11é arrondissement

Our Belleville tour begins at Le M.U.R., which is a rotating three by eight metre former advertising billboard, curated by the association, Modulable, Urbain et Reactif (M.U.R.). Le M.U.R. came into being after the space suffered repeated attacks from urban artists over a several year period. The consequence of this prolonged assault: the media owner sold the space to the Mairie de Paris, who handed control over to the very same artists. Since 2007 the space has hosted a different urban artist every two weeks, who receives a stipend of €500 from the association, money which comes from the townhall. What gets produced at the wall is uncensored, and candidates are drawn solely from the international graffiti movement. Each new artwork is inaugurated with a vernissage (opening), during which alcohol is served to the attendees, whom are able to meet and speak with the artist in residence. True to the inherent ephemerality of street art, old work is covered or stripped from the surface prior to each new artist’s arrival.

To view all the iterations created for Le M.U.R., visit the following web address: lemur.fr.

Space Invader visite street art 13e arrondissement graffiti Invader (France), 13é arrondissement

In the 1960’s, French cultural institutions started welcoming the work of avant-garde artists. At the time, a change in public attitude towards modern art was observed. Part of the public was beginning to open up to contemporary art and its often rattling form and content. Similarly to some works by Manzoni, Ben or Michael Heizer, however, Street art can not be displayed in museums.

Mai 1968 may beaux arts debord situationiste street art parisAtelier Populaire, École des Beaux Arts, 1968

The Situationist International was an anti-art movement led by artist and intellectual, Guy Debord, that took inspiration from the techniques and ideas of Dada and Surrealism, as well as Marxist ideas on society, and was core in the eruption of Paris’ 1968 student revolt – the birth of street art in France – which led to similar uprisings across the Western world. Debord’s book, La Société du spectacle, was fundamental in focusing students and workers against the inequalities caused by France’s economic system, and how these inequalities were being concealed by the media, which created a representation of real life through images, or the spectacle; and against poverty, unemployment, and Charles de Gaulle’s conservative government. Students at the École des Beaux Arts established a studio dedicated to producing poster art inciting people to take to the streets, the Atelier Populaire, which helped bring the government to its knees. The Situationists and the Atelier Populaire were both aware, and against, their art also becoming part of the capitalist spectacle they opposed.philippe herard affiche journal belleville street art parisPhilippe Hérard (France), 20é arrondissement

1968 is considered to be France’s fifth revolution, and the forerunner to the establishment of the Fifth Republic, but, of particular geographic significance to the tour route through Paris’ epicentre of street art, Belleville, is the 1871 Paris Commune, a short-lived socialist government. The Commune came into power forcibly before its final defeat two months later on Rue Ramponeau, below what is now Parc de Belleville, at the hands of the regular French, bourgeois-backed, ‘Versailles army’, and is considered as France’s fourth revolution. Karl Marx was still alive at the time of the Commune and used the episode as empirical evidence of his writings and to further develop his ideas. The local population, or Bellevilloise, marks the Commune each year, and it is also common to see Commune-related street art.

Schuut Jef Aerosol place stravinsky centre pompidou street art parisJef Aerosol (France), 2é arrondissement

Attitudes towards street art in Paris

La Tour Paris 13, the month-long townhall-supported street art exhibition in a nine-floor tower block marked for demolition in the south of Paris, received international media coverage and had daily queues of up to twelve hours by the final week of the show. Local Paris townhalls are allowing and supporting street artists to paint murals on buildings and the Paris townhall is developing a Paris street art mobile application. Moreover, where the tour takes place in Belleville, in East Paris, an entire street has been dedicated to uncommissioned street art, where there are also two graffiti art galleries that exist with financial support from the local authority.

roti rue lemon street art paris bellevilleRoti (France), 20é arrondissement

Furthermore, the left-controlled Paris townhall has shown itself numerous times to support the squatting of abandoned buildings by organisations that offer services to the local community, for example, art and dance classes for free or at a low-cost, bike repair workshops, and entertainment, such as, film screenings and art exhibitions. A number of formerly squatted spaces have been institutionalised, the most famous of these being 59 Rivoli, on rue de Rivoli (Paris’ equivalent of London’s Oxford Street), which serves as a public art and culture centre and has had €250, 000 invested into its renovation by the Paris townhall.

The Paris townhall also supports an annual series of events celebrating alternative Paris, Paris Face Cachée (PFC), which is heavily publicised to the French-speaking public. PFC forms part of the left-controlled townhall’s ‘narrative’ for Paris, which is aiming to shift the paradigm from it being a ‘museum city’ to a place for “unusual and avant-garde events”, in the way one might say Berlin has become recognised. There is a discourse starting to emerge that supports this vision, seen in works such as the massive best-selling French-language book, Métronome, by Lorànt Deutsch.

What students will learn from the workshops

dessin atelier paris bombes paint mural workshop street art paris peinture bombes atelier street art workshop paris

During the tour we discuss the techniques used to make street art: freehand spraypainted, stencilled, pasted/glued, mosaic, sculpted, as well as the styles and ideas present. The mural workshop is done in groups of up to fifteen using spraypaint freehand as an artistic medium directly onto a wall. Through a series of brainstorming sessions, groups formulate their own concept-based designs onto paper, negotiating amongst themselves their ideas, in order to form a grand scheme to be sprayed onto the wall with help from teachers. We aim to push groups past designing letter-based graffiti. Students will come away from the workshop able to more confidently access imagination and effectively work and self-manage as part of a group to produce a large-scale concept mural.

Testimony

We have been providing experiences to student groups for several years, and would be happy to put you in contact with past clients so you can learn firsthand how what we offer could benefit your group.

How do we discourage students from vandalising the streets?

Students should come away from the tour with an increased awareness of their relationship to the public space and how the built environment shapes community, including the impact of street art and graffiti.

We aim to explore questions around how people interact with the public space, but always with a focus on what constitutes positive and negative use.

By critically engaging with Paris street art and graffiti, students are given a frame of reference by which to formulate for themselves a sense of responsibility towards their environment.

Paris street artists

Here is a selection of Paris street art photographed as part of our ongoing documentary project.Fred le chevalier street art tour parisFred le Chevalier (France), 11é arrondissement

As a youngster, Fred was impressed by street artist, Ernest Pignon Ernest – he liked seeing his “poetry on the street”. Fred tells us he is not a specialist on street art, but he had a good feeling about it, as he likes things that are free to the public. “Punk music has the same spirit, of being able to express yourself, without being a musician, necessarily, and in the same way, I felt free to draw, but without having had any formal training”.

space invader mosaic visite street art paris baladeInvader (France), 3é arrondissement

Invader has been installing ceramic pixel art, derived from the late-1970s video game of the same name, since 1998. He’s installed more than 1,000 in Paris alone. Invader prefers to keep his identity secret from the public.

Kashink street art paris Kashink (France), 9é arrondissment

Kashink takes her name from the onomatopoeic words she found in comic books as a kid – it is a sound of action. Comic books still influence her work, especially in her use of colours and thick lines. She takes influence from Russian and Mexican craft, especially the portraits of Frida Kahlo. She used to make tag graffiti, but says she is against its closed community, and prefers to share her art and make people think in a creative way.

c215 street art vitry sur seine paris C215 (France), Vitry-sur-Seine

Stencil artist, C215, painted this work in collaboration with the local townhall, which is very supportive of urban art as a force for good in the community. The artist explained to us in an interview, the importance in his artistic life of doing street art for street people. He mentioned his experience in Haiti, where he painted portraits inspired by the locals all over the capital, Port-au-Prince. He says: “It was a unique personal experience. I was invited by a local cultural association and over the week, local people showed that they were very curious to see my work”.

diamant street art paris rue denoyez graffiti Diamantaire (France), 20é arrondissement

Diamant takes mirror he finds in the street, and with a glass cutter and spraypaint, reshapes it into glimmering diamonds, and sticks them up in the streets. Inspired by the demoralising effects of the economic recession, his message is to make people feel rich, without the need of money.

Vhils relief 13th arrondissement street art parisVhils (Portugal), 13é arrondissement

Vhils, real name Alexandre Farto, is a Portuguese street artist who works with chisel and explosives to create reliefs into stone surfaces. He began making graffiti as a tag artist. His father was a left wing activist, and while growing up he noticed the dreamy portraits used in propaganda posters, which inspire what he does today. He noticed how the walls of the city build up with layers of political and commercial posters, and as an artist while exploring the medium of stencil, he experimented with the existing surface texture, before eventually carving away from stone surfaces in the public space. He gained international recognition when one of his works was exposed next to a work by street artist Banksy, at the Cans Festival in London in 2008.

Seth Dem 189 - street art parisJulien ‘Seth’ Malland and Dem 189 (France), 20é arrondissement

French artist, Seth travels and creates along the way dreamy surrealist illustrative portraits both beautiful and sometimes disturbing, reminiscent of Miyazaki’s animation film, Spirited Away. The artist has spent considerable effort in travelling the globe and adding his art to local walls. Within each location he spends time with the community, and often works in collaboration with local artists. Thus, it becomes clear why he has acquired the nickname, “Seth” Globepainter.

shepard fairey obey street art paris 13eShepard Fairey / OBEY (US), 13é arrondissement

Shepard Fairey, who works in the streets under the moniker OBEY, started making street art in the 1980s, and gained an audience via his Andre the Giant Has a Posse stickers, also known as the Obey Giant campaign. The campaign is a pastiche of parody of political propaganda and the Hollywood movie, They Live. The stickers have an Orwellian message and are intended to make us become aware and question our relationship to our and capitalism-driven consumer culture and its Big Brother-like effect on our lives. Fairey has been highly influential in the street art movement, and as such was selected as the subject of a twenty-year retrospective at The Boston Institute of Contemporary Art. He is best known for designing the Obama HOPE poster, for the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, which galvanised support for the future president using a grassroots poster strategy, not dissimilar to how many street artists also promote their work.

Speedy Graphito street art parisSpeedy Graphito (France) 13é arrondissement

French artist, Speedy Graphito, real name Olivier Rizzo, is one of the pioneers of the French “Street Art” movement, known as the ‘first generation’, and today one of the major figures of artists from this period. Since the early ‘80s he has been painting the walls of Paris using pop culture imagery such as cartoon characters, superheroes and brand logos. His artwork attempts to decrypt our collective unconscious, while simultaneously affecting our perceptions of societal systems, especially around the core artistic subjects of birth and death. Speedy was lucky enough to paint with the late New York street artist, Keith Haring, during one of his visits to Paris.

Contact us

Since the foundation of Street Art Paris in 2012, with the mission to document street art in Paris at streetartparis.fr, it has gathered around it a broad network of artists and institutions, and collected material comprised of dozens of personal interviews with artists, fifty written articles, video, and an unlimited photographic database.

Continually updated details of the Street Art Paris project are published at streetartparis.fr.

For enquiries contact the Street Art Paris team:

Tel: + 33 9 50 75 19 92 (Monday 9-6pm, Tuesday-Thursday 9-1pm)

Email: visites@streetartparis.fr