Over the years the scene grew and Paris began to boom with art with a strong environmental element alongside humorous, political and social statements.
Today, street art has a strong place in the city and the works can touch all members of the public, not just an elite group who visit the galleries. You can take in the art while sipping your morning café, walking to the markets, or waiting for a bus. Whether it has a political message, adds a splash of colour, makes you laugh or pushes you to think, it introduces a dynamism and vitality to the city.
As for the artists, the urban canvas of Paris is vast and their styles wide. Colourful but quick tags take your attention in some parts while sassy stencils impress on café windows; commissioned murals decorate whole walls while provocative portraits loom from higher buildings and stickers brighten footpaths and windows. Above all, a freedom of expression unlike any curated gallery quickens the pulse of the city.
Originally from Nantes, stencil artist Jean- François Perroy has been leaving his mark on the urban landscape of Paris since the 80s. His work appears all over the world (including on the Great Wall of China).
Aérosol portrays both anonymous figures of the street (children, musicians and passers by) and celebrities (Elvis, Hendrix, Gainsbourg). Discover his Indian dancers, djembé players, accordion players and a recurring sitting kid with red arrows. Inspirations come from 60s pop art, album covers and everyday life. Check out his huge stencil of 22 metre high by 14 metres covering an area of 350 square metres ‘Chuuuuttt’ (Shhhhh) on the wall at Place Igor- Stravinsky opposite the fountain by Centre Georges-Pompidou; the black and white self portrait, finger to lip making a hush sign to inspire people to listen to the birds, kids, languages…
Nemo is the artistic name of Serge Fauri and means ‘nobody’ in Latin. Since the 90s, the buildings and streets of Paris, particularly around Ménilmontant and Belleville, have been beautifully animated with his classic picture book images of a silhouetted man in trench coat and hat, red balloons, black cats, suitcases, kites and mini sailing boats. (Exiting Ménilmontant metro – look up and you can’t miss one.) They’re playful and uplifting. The artist passed away recently on 21st September, 2021.
Blek Le Rat, the artist name of Xavier Prou, was one of the first street artists in Paris. When he was a student of fine art and architecture at the Beaux-Arts in Paris, a trip to New York inspired him to start creating his own. His stencil art first appeared in the early 80s and featured rats and large scaled human figures.
His work has since influenced many, including Banksy. He created a series on the homeless beginning in 2006 to bring awareness to a global problem. Le Rat’s work has been featured in streets and galleries across the world, including London, Melbourne and LA.
The skeletal white figures of Mesnager have been moving and dancing from Paris to the Red Square in Moscow since 1995. Representing ‘light, strength and peace’, they are often visible higher up on walls in Ménilmontant, most notably halfway up the steep rue de Ménilmontant (corner of rue Sorbier) where they dance in a circle à la Matisse titled ‘C’est nous les gars de Ménilmontant’ (We’re the guys of Ménilmontant).
A star of street art, Miss Tic began stencilling her signature dark headed pin-up style women, often accompanied by a few words of poetry, in 1985. She is still active today, represented in galleries and in international Art Fairs. Her work has also been appreciated by the fashion world and in 2007 she designed the poster for the Claude Chabrol film ‘La Fille coupée en deux’. You can find her work around Montmartre and in the 20th and 13th.
There’s something delightful about glancing up and spotting a Space Invader in the middle of the city, and this was one of the aims of the anonymous artist who, since the 90s, has placed around the world well over 1,000 tiled mosaic artworks, inspired by the 1980s video game, . ‘I like the concept of de-contextualising art to bring it to the streets, to surprise everyday people’ says the artist who defines himself cheekily as a UFA, an Unidentified Free Artist. ‘It is first of all about liberating Art from its usual alienators that museums or institutions can be. But it is also about freeing the Space Invaders from their video games TV screens and to bring them in our physical world,’ he says.
Big yellow Cheshire-cat-like felines smile down to passers-by around Paris since 1993 thanks to Swiss artist Thoma Vuille. He nearly faced three months in prison for tagging work panels at Gare du Nord and got off with a 500 euro fine, even after declaring he was just bringing art to an ugly part of a train station. His work can also be found in places as far flung as Hong Kong, New York, Tokyo and Sarajevo.
Mostly, but not only, in the Marais, Chevalier’s figures are black, white and red with cartoony faces and chic demeanors, often considered Tim Burton-esque.
Julien Malland, aka Seth or ‘Globepainter’, originally from Paris has also left his mark on China, Vietnam and Mexico. His fun children give the illusion of moving through the walls and gazing out windows. In Paris his work can be found in Belleville (above the park de Belleville), in the 13th and around the Marais.
Artist: Jef Aérosol - ©Ruby Boukabou
Artist: Miss.Tic - ©Ruby Boukabou
Artist: Space Invader - ©Ruby Boukabou
Artist: Monsieur Chat - ©Ruby Boukabou
Artist: Fred Chevalier (Belleville) - ©RubyBoukabou
Artist: Nemo - ©Ruby Boukabou