Ever since the attacks on 13th November 2015, “L’amour court les rues”. Quite literally, as pavements carry the marks of the street artist who is spreading his love across the city, and asking us to look down, up, around, and appreciate that street art can make us fall in love with Paris.
Street art has been marking its territory in Paris for decades and the sense of excitement at discovering a new work of art – normally the morning after the night before – is one of the delights of living in a city and claiming ownership of its streets. Getting to grips with street art has given me a feeling of knowing bits of the city that others haven’t yet stumbled upon, and below you can learn about a few of my most highly recommended spots; so just look down…
Le Mur, Oberkampf
Every other week, Le M.U.R. (Modulable, Urbain, Réactif) invites a street artist to create a mural on the corner of the rue St Maur in the 11th arrondissement and the public is invited to watch the artist’s progress, have a chat and enjoy an apéro with the artist (This is France, after all, so nothing’s finished unless there’s a drink at the end of it.) Mr Dheo recently featured on the wall, and on 12th March Mush took up the standard. Unlike much of the street art scattered around Paris and particularly this arrondissement, which is famous for its urban art, this mural is totally legal and highly respected by the community. Nearby, you can spot works by Invader, Shepard Fairey (Obey), Hopare, M. Chat among others.
Quai de la Gare / Bercy
What used to be home to a community of migrants and the underbelly of the nightclub Wanderlust is now a haven for street artists whose murals stretch the length of the quai and have added to this arrondissement’s lust for street art. By the time you read this, the majority of these murals will have most likely been removed – the last time I went a man in a JCB eyed me and my camera very suspiciously – but the area will most definitely retain some of its most famous works. Check out installations by Ride in Peace, Le Diamantaire and a whole load of stencils asking you to reconsider your very existence. The piece below reads, “If I was meant to be controlled I would come with a remote” – which I have found to be an endlessly useful reply to all number of demands.
Berges de Seine (The banks of the River Seine)
As well as several Ride in Peace sculptures cleverly positioned next to Velib’ stations, the Berges de Seine are alive with street art. Among a whole host of mosaics and stencils decorating the walls, you can spot one of Gregos’s faces sticking his tongue out at you as you scale the wall of the narrowest berges near Notre Dame.
Canal de la Villette
This is probably my favourite place to glimpse street art in Paris as the new generation of artists meets the old and works by Gregos, Ride in Peace, Invader and M. Chat rub shoulders with Seth, Oré and Kashink, whose vibrant visages are increasingly popping up across the city. The terrain around Stalingrad is infamous for its links with the art form and, retaining its unspoilt feel and diversity, is a constantly renewing canvas for artists.
So there you go, now go out and discover works for yourselves and in doing so, you’ll undoubtedly come to love the undiscovered areas of Paris as much, if not more, than the well-trod pavements of the tourist quartiers. Here one day and gone the next, street art is a unique experience that reminds us that taking the city at face value can be a lot more exciting than it sounds
Article by Katherine Worley