Paris is a city that attracts art lovers of all kinds. Whether you’re absorbing history down the expansive halls of the Louvre or checking out the latest in modern art at the newly renovated hipster haven Palais de Tokyo, the City of Light is known for its generous feasts for the eyes. One movement of Paris art that begs to be noticed is the globe-spanning street-art scene. The debate continues on whether this new art form is our generation’s answer to Keith Haring or just glorified graffiti that is polluting and deteriorating the old-world charm of Paris.
Pioneers turned masked celebrities, Banksy and Space Invader have paved the way for a profusion of equally talented and dedicated artists. These new street artists are making a name from themselves; stepping outside the shadows of the iconic and influential artists. Lately, street art installations have been steering in a different direction, a softer one, with a more feminine approach to this exploding urban phenomenon.
Saturating this burgeoning art scene is up-and-comer Fred le Chevalier. His work is mostly seen in many of the nooks and side streets of the Marais. His sense of romanticism is subtlety conveyed with his jaunty, disproportionate and sometimes masked black and white characters. A splash of color comes into play in select pieces, often a pair of kiss-stained red lips, or a red heart, which gives a feminine touch.
A sassy addition to this new wave of Paris street artists is the ultra-incognito Madame Moustache. Madame’s work comes in the style of ransom-note collages of classic images stamped with her signature red moustache and surrounded by playful and sometimes vague expressions. Her work can be found throughout Belleville and the 10th Arrondissement, but she is continuing to make her mark in the city with a large number of installations popping up outside Paris’s bohemian neighborhoods.
For those who have an affinity for pop culture, an artist who goes by the name Nice Art gives his own take on Hollywood legends with stenciled images in loud, punchy colors. Icons Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn, in all their coquettishness, grace building facades around the Oberkampf district.
The formally anonymous artist who goes by Monsieur Chat appears to be hard at work each night, as a new piece pops up daily on the streets of Paris. M. Chat’s signature cat can cheer up even the grayest Parisian day. Sometimes fashioned with a little heart as a nose, this cat can be found flying over the highest building tops, carrying flowers or waving a flag, and, notably, always wearing his insidious Cheshire grin.
Getting on board with this growing phenomenon, a French team of street art enthusiasts developed Urbacolors, a free interactive application (available on both Android and iPhone) that allows fans to upload, share and discover new street art worldwide. The user gains points for each piece that is checked in, making it more like a game than an app. For die-hard street art fans, the Urbacolors team has created a supplemental blog documenting over 10,000 images of street art worldwide.
Undoubtedly, the street art debate will continue, especially in older cities where the contrast is extreme. It remains to be seen if this new brand of art will be dismissed as a generational fad or embraced some day as fine art. With artists gaining more respect, gracing the covers of albums, and their work curated at art shows worldwide, I don’t see the movement going away anytime soon. In the meantime, look around and enjoy the view.
Fred le Chevalier
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