Paris has a lively street-art scene that has gone well beyond standard graffiti. The artist Invader has mounted mosaics of Space Invaders across the city, and Miss.Tic is famous for her pochoir tags of sassy women boasting witty puns, while poster art of Marilyn and Michael (Jackson) is everywhere. These artists have become so popular that they have been allowed to run wild with entire streets, like the rue Dénoyez just off the Belleville metro stop in the 20th Arrondissement, and you can now purchase their work for your home interior at popular Paris art galleries like Galerie Ligne 13 and Galerie Onega.
There is one artist who offers even more—a chance to participate in your own piece of Paris street art. The artist is Gregos, and he has created a series of plaster masks that are painted, then mounted to stick out of walls, amusing passersby. The masks are funny, with a tongue sticking out, blowing a kiss or giving the thumbs-up. They have become so popular that locals and tourists alike spend time hunting them down, taking photos of them and sometimes even stealing them!
As an art collector and a fan of street art myself, I got very excited when I learned that Gregos was happy to work with anyone passionate about his project. The Frenchman’s birthday was just around the corner, and I couldn’t imagine a more perfect gift than a piece of public art made personal, then displayed in his favorite quartier so that he could appreciate it each time he passes by. To order the mask, I logged on to the artist’s website and clicked on “collaborations.” I selected a mask, and five days later it arrived. Time to get creative. I can’t say it was easy, but eventually I came up with a design that was personal but could be shared with the public, easy to execute yet artistic. If this seems too daunting to you, click on “boutique,” where you can purchase one of Gregos’s original pieces.
Gregos is happy to tell you how to mount your mask so that you can keep it at home, but he is just as happy to mount the mask here in Paris on your behalf. A few days before the birthday, we arranged to meet at a local café. It was 11 at night, so I had to sneak out of the flat and head downstairs without the Frenchman suspecting anything was afoot. I handed off the mask like this was an illicit deal and agreed to pose for a photo for his collection before Gregos sped off on his motorcycle.
Very early the next morning, I received a text message with the exact location of the mask, and the Frenchman and I were off. We rounded a corner near the Luxembourg gardens and saw a neighbor gazing up intently. The Frenchman’s eyes followed, and he himself was instantly drawn to the mask. We got closer, and he exclaimed that it was cool, at which point I awkwardly announced, “Happy birthday!” pointing out the dedication and the signature. His smile grew so large that his face was silly enough for Gregos’s next mold.
Editor’s note: Going to Paris? Why not rent a fabulous apartment to save
money and increase space? You’ll feel like une vraie Parisienne.