Street Art in Paris: Some Fascinating Examples in Pictures

  • 01 of 05

    "L'art de la rue" gets ambitious

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    A mural in the Paris neighborhood of Belleville, the city's nerve center for street art. Martin Clavey/Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons license.

    When it comes to the street art scene in Paris, I'm tempted to use a once-familiar advertising slogan: You've come a long way, baby. Gone are the days when graffiti, or even unsolicited street art, meant sneaking around the streets of Paris, looking for a wall to paint outside the watchful eye of the police and security cameras. In a city that has been tightly constrained by rules and regulations up until recently, the French capital is finally starting to recognize the creative potential (and touristic appeal) of its vibrant street art scene, going so far as to commission some of the more recent works that have been adding color and artistic interest to the streets. 

    Bent on staking out some of the most interesting street art the city currently has to offer? Just take a walk through some of Paris' northeastern neighborhoods, and you’ll encounter an abundance of fascinating works-- in some cases, entire streets and passageways essentially consecrated to the art. While...MORE southern neighborhoods such as the Butte aux Cailles count their fair share of impressive street art, notably from familiar artists like MissTic, the majority of the best and most grand-scale works are found in the northeast. They add warmth, grit, and interest to areas from the Canal de l’Ourcq to Menilmontant, Belleville, Oberkampf and the Canal Saint-Martin. Forget about tagging – the art in these neighborhoods is getting bigger and bolder, and much of it is commissioned by the city. 

    Shown above: An ambitious mural in the ultra-urban Belleville district serves as an example of how sophisticated street art has become in the area. 

    Click through for more examples of some of the city's most interesting street art, and the creators behind it. 

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  • 02 of 05

    In Living Colors: An International Street Art Festival

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    A visiting Japanese street artist tends to a Frida-Kahlo tribute at the Ourcq Living Colors event in Paris in 2014. Colette Davidson

    Evidence of Parisian street art’s evolution was abundant at the Ourcq Living Colors hip-hop festival, held in the summer of 2014 near the Canal de l’Ourcq in the city's northeastern tip. The festival brought together artists from Paris, northern France, Ukraine, Lisbon and Japan – all working to paint an enormous stretch of empty wall space. The international flavor of the festival epitomizes what street art is all about.

    “We’re in an era of globalization,” says Da Cruz, a Paris-based street artist and co-organizer of the festival. “People from different parts of the world contribute to the colorfulness of the city.”

    Paris’s east side has seen major gentrification in recent years, with dozens of cultural groups living side by side like never before. Da Cruz was born near the Canal de l’Ourcq and has dedicated much of his time to introducing more street art into the neighborhood.

    “This neighborhood is in transformation right now and I want to be here for this transformation,” Da Cruz...MORE tells me. “I’d like to think I’m working on our collective memory.”

    Pictured Above: An artist works on his mural as part of the Living Colors festival in Paris. 

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  • 03 of 05

    Meeting the Artists at Living Colors

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    Lille street artist Ipnsone's work at Living Colors in Paris. Colette Davidson

    During the Ourcq Living Colors festival, each participating artist was given a square of wall to work on. The goal was to meld each mural into the next by the end of the festival, so that the entire wall flowed as one collective piece

    “We’re hoping to have something coherent by the end,” says Ipnsone, an artist visiting from Lille who was working on a mural of intertwining turquoise, magenta and orange circles (pictured above). “After all, art is all about sharing.”

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  • 04 of 05

    Street Art Maverick Marko 93 Talks Inspiration

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    Colette Davidson

    While Paris’s hip-hop and graffiti art scene perhaps doesn't yet have the "street cred" of places like New York or Los Angeles, organizations like Cultures Pas Sages is making it a reality. They organized this year’s Ourcq Living Colors festival and work to promote cultural diversity in general. This is good news for Paris, which is finally seeing its come-uppance in graffiti art. 

    “Street art is really evolving right now. People are mixing a lot of different techniques,” says Marko 93, a successful street artist who's had his work shown in international forums and is a mainstay in the Parisian street art scene. “We try to travel to find inspiration from one another.” Marko is well-known for his use of illuminated paints and sprays that give his work a strongly light-infused look, almost as if he were using neon. 

    If the number of visitors to this year’s Ourcq Living Colors festival is anything to go by, Paris’s street art scene is already an inspiration to many. 

    Pictured...MORE above: A work from Marko 93 at Living Colors. 

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  • 05 of 05

    Best Places for Street Art in Paris?

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    Rue Denoyez in Belleville is, for all purposes, dedicated to street art. It also boasts several interesting studios. Groum/Creative Commons

    Now that you've got a general sense of the burgeoning street art scene in Paris, where's best to head to get a taste of it on your own? I recommend arming yourself with a good Paris city street map, and ambling around these streets and corners in particular:

    • Rue Alibert, 10th arrondissement (Metro: Goncourt, Jacques-Bonsergent)
    • Rue Denoyez, 20th arrondissement (Metro: Belleville)
    • Rue de Belleville, 20th (Metro: Belleville): Ascending the steep street north, look out for interesting street art on your right, especially at the corner of Rue de Belleville and Rue Julien Lacroix, near the Culture Rapide cafe (this is also a great place to stop for a coffee or beer).
    • Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud (near Cite Ribot), 11th arrondissement (Metro: Couronnes)
    • Rue Beaurepaire, 10th arrondissement
    • Rue Germaine Tailleferre, 19th arrondissement
    • Rue de l’Ourcq, 19th arrondissement (Metro: Ourcq)
    • Rue de la Butte aux Cailles; Rue des Cinq Diamants, 13th arrondissement (Metro: Corvisart)