The murals painted onto the blank canvases of Paris buildings and walls open up imaginary spaces. By turns playful, philosophical, and poetic, they fill Paris’ art gallery of the streets.
I never intentionally visited any of these murals (you won’t find them on GoogleMaps). I came upon them by chance. Around the corner always lay the possibility of surprise.
By the time you read this, some of the murals will no doubt have vanished. Although some are considered treasures to be restored periodically, others are more ephemeral, giving way to new imaginings, new visions.
The international nature of the explosion of street art is evidenced by the origins of the artists below.
Fabio Riéti (Italian-French)
Fabio Riéti, one of the earliest practitioners of modern street murals, believes that
Street art is made for the passer-by who doesn’t go there at all for that, but to go and buy bread, and who is pulled by the ear as he comes across a work.
I’d make a special trip to see a Riéti mural, but his point is well taken. Coming across a mural involves the passer-by in the process of discovery, and later, in viewing an old friend. I was fortunate to stumble upon two of Riéti’s works.
At the bottom of the stairs, Glenn Gould accompanies a violinist. At the top, an open-armed little girl awaits the man climbing the stairs with a suitcase.
Luggage is a recurring motif in the murals of Riéti, as in his L’Escalier above. Early in his life, he twice escaped Nazi deportation due to his Jewish surname. His family moved from Italy to France and later to the United States. After the war, he returned permanently to France.
Trompe l’oeil mural of J. S. Bach, by Riéti:
Riéti, who has painted scores of murals in several countries, sees street art as democratic at heart, connecting passers-by with the material world around them and with one another, provoking dialogue:
Many young people walk around with a tablet in their hand and no longer have any connection with the urban landscape. It’s a new and dangerous thing, which ends up locking us into a virtual life instead of a material one. In this respect, the city should be seen as one big apartment. The painted walls are paintings in the background of this common apartment, made for everyone, for anyone.
Gonzalo Borondo (Spanish)
Les Trois Ages:
Hallucinogenic mural on Rue Lahire:
Mural on the wall of an OpenBach building, a multidisciplinary art space:
Tourbillon de Poissons (Swarms of Fish), in the Quartier Asiatique:
Seth (French) & Faile (American)
You don’t always have to be on foot to view street murals. Some are visible from elevated metro lines.
Unfaded depicts patterns of Portuguese and Parisian ceramic tile as if printed on panels of wallpaper torn in diagonal strips to reveal past layers of patterns beneath. The archaeological process of revelation is driven by a sensual and chance aesthetic. The tear patterns, however, make it ambiguous which layers are older and which are newer.
One of the layers is simply sky blue, no pattern. Is nature the blank slate staring at us behind all those peeled-back layers of human artifact?
Jana & Js (Austrian-French)
Paris observes herself observing herself . . .
For decades, speculation has murmured over the relationship between Tintin and Captain Haddock, creations of Belgian cartoonist Hergé. Street artist Combo seems to state the obvious in his depiction of the two in an amorous embrace:
More . . .
A building that lives up to its address on Rue des Artistes:
Silver leaf pattern on a building around the corner from Tchann bookstore:
Ghostly trompe l’oeil trees and park benches on a wall abutting Square des Missions-Étrangères:
A splash of tinker-toy colour in the Marais:
Wall of an OpenBach building
Near Université Paris-Diderot:
Mural at preschool:
A mural in Paris’ Chinatown:
Detail: Your children will come from all countries:
A still from Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid:
Monumental trompe l’oeil door. Note the apartment balconies to the right, and the “tiny” street lamp. If we’re living in a dollhouse, what would happen if we entered the giant door?
Alice in Wonderland “Drink me” & “Eat me” at an open market entrance:
A colourful cubist woman enlivens grey high-rises:
A moment in time:
A tinkerbell liberty angel reigns supreme:
I’m thinking of you:
An unusual artwork embedded in a wall near Rue Mouffetard
Chance mirror art:
La Butte aux Cailles
This village on a hill, a haven for artists, deserves special mention for its ever-changing gallery of street art.
Next up: Words on the Street