Exploring Paris Street Art
Paris, like most major metropolises, attracts artists of many kinds, and graffiti artists are no exception. Far beyond the spray-painted wall scribble with which many associate it, graffiti has over the last few decades evolved into a respected expression of public art, often with strong political and social messages. It’s no surprise that Paris has long been known as a leader in such urban art, and pieces from the large-scale to the barely perceptible can be found all over the city, even in its wealthiest quartiers. Here we point out just some of the best areas to see true graffiti art in the ever-changing canvas that is Paris.
Le M.U.R. is a billboard-sized wall on rue Oberkampf, in the 11th arrondissement, that hosts the work of artists from around the world. Every two to four weeks, the non-profit that manages the wall (one of the few areas in Paris actually sanctioned by the city government as an urban exhibition space) invites an artist to create an ephemeral piece that is eventually discarded before the next moves in. Since its official inception in 2007, the wall has hosted the work of over 140 artists, the likes of Miss Van and Argentine Jorge Pomar. Le M.U.R. XIII, in the 13th arrondissement, is a similar project that was started more recently.
Le M.U.R. is located on rue Oberkampf at rue St Maur.
Rue Dénoyez and Belleville
Rue Dénoyez in the Belleville district of Paris’s 20th arrondissement is arguably one of Paris’s most famous locales for urban art. What began as a squat for sculptors and graffiti artists has flourished over the last 15 years, becoming another legally-sanctioned zone for the exhibition of urban art. On any given day you might see an artist adding to the constantly-evolving collection. Don’t just stop at Dénoyez, though. Belleville’s narrow laneways are home to perhaps the largest concentration of street art in all of Paris, from the cartoonish felines of M. Chat to the Men in White of Mesnager.
Rue Dénoyez is located just next to the métro station Belleville.
Even the quaint streets of the Abbesses neighborhood in the 18th arrondissement are abundant with work—a lot can be found around rue des Trois Frères and rue d’Orchampt. Keep an eye out for newcomer Mister P who often makes his mark near the pixelated, video game-inspired creations of Invader.
For further art-filled wanderings, explore the Canal de l’Ourcq, the Canal St Martin, and across the Seine into the 13th arrondissement. For information, the smartphone app Urbacolors allows users to learn about, track, and share findings around the city and the world.
Special thanks to Context Travel docent Cedrik Verdure for his assistance with this post.
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