Against the backdrop of Paris Fashion Week which introduced several collaborative projects between high fashion brands and big names from the art world (Dior partnered with KAWS and Takashi Murakami continued collaborating with Virgil Abloh, the new artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection), the French capital was hit for the first time hit by the world’s most elusive street artist—Banksy.
Without previous announcement or warning, Parisians began to discover several new street pieces that quickly materialized in the urban/street art galaxy of the social media universe and were eventually confirmed on Banksy’s official Instagram account.
The first piece was found near the Porte de la Chapelle metro station, where Paris’ refugee centre “La Bulle,” was located until August 2017. A city within a city, it was home to a makeshift camp of some 2,700 refugees and was dismantled an estimated 35 times before 2,000 migrants were bussed to temporary shelters. This was done as part of Emmanuel Macron’s wish to remove the refugees “off the streets, out of the woods,” as stated during his campaign.
With this in mind, Banksy revisited his “Go Flock Yourself” piece from 2008, and created a new version as commentary on the current political situation in France and throughout Europe. Depicting a black girl painting a Victorian wallpaper pattern over a swastika, the artist is commenting on the way politicians are concealing wrongdoing and potentially fascist policies.
The second and third pieces appeared soon thereafter. One depicts a suited man luring a three-legged dog with a bone while hiding a saw behind his back, a metaphor for politicians tricking people with promises that often have a masked, devastating agenda. The other is Banksy’s take on the iconic painting “Napoleon Crossing the Alps” by Jacques-Louis David, a symbol of French power and influence. By covering the rider with his own cape, the artist is commenting on the current misguided way the government is leading the country, blinding people with propaganda and false promises.
The last three pieces introduce Bansky’s signature rats to their genesis—Parisian artist Blek Le Rat and his rat stencils were a great influence on the Bristol-born artist, or as he stated in one of his recent IG posts: “The birthplace of modern stencil art.” Placing them around the city in ways that interact with local graffiti and building facades, it may appear as though they’re having fun blowing things up. But in reality, they are a reminder of a volatile period of civil unrest that took place in May 1968 when the government temporarily ceased to function.
In one piece a rat is propelled by a popping champagne cork. Using this symbol of affluence as their vehicle to overtake obstacles, the rodents are once again Banksy’s metaphor for working class people making significant change when they join together and fight for similar cause.
Of particular note in this Banksy “invasion” was that some of the works were miraculously revised overnight, allowing the artist to highlight one of the biggest advantages of stencil technique–its ability to be applied quickly and precisely. With this in mind, a small rat prepared to blow up a Pompidou Center sign suddenly morphed into a much larger rat with bandanna covered face. It now wields a large X-Acto knife, a common symbol of stencil cutting.
Included here are many of the works that have since emerged in Paris, but you can see several more here.
Update: This article was updated on 6/28/18 to include new images and details.
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For over a century, Parisians were drawn out of the city and into the neighboring village of Le Plessis-Piquet to experience charming summer evenings among the township’s tall trees. What started as open air dancehalls called “guinguettes,” turned into treehouse cabarets after restaurant proprietor Joseph Gueusquin built Le Grand Robinson in 1848.
Inspired by the treehouse described in The Swiss Family Robinson, the unique establishment hoisted visitors to the top branches of a thick chestnut tree to dine dozens of feet above their fellow revelers. Over the next few decades copycat restaurants began popping up in trees across town, hosting donkey races and building tall tree swings to persuade diners away from their numerous competitors. This crop of new treetop guinguettes forced Gueusquin to rename his lounge “Le Vrai de Arbre Robinson” (The Real Robinson Tree) in 1888, which ensured customers knew they were dining at the original treehouse of Le Plessis-Piquet.
In 1909, after 60 years of booming success with the popular treehouses, the town changed its name to Le Plessis-Robinson. Today none of the Parisian suburb’s treetop bars remain (the last shut its doors in 1976), however the memory of treetop revelry remains in the few forgotten boards tacked to the town’s tall trees. (via Jeroen Apers)
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Photographer Sebastian Erras (previously here and here) captures diverse and fanciful mosaic floors throughout Europe and Cuba, placing all of his downward-facing finds on his Instagram @parisianfloors. Erras began his project focused on tiled patterns throughout Paris, but began expanding outward as he noticed equally breathtaking floors in cities such as Barcelona and London. Included here are two perspectives of the sea-themed floor of the restaurant Le Bon Pecheur in Paris, a shot of a friendly looking crab and a fantastically rendered conical shell.
You can see a wider range of Erras’s interior photography and other mosaic-covered floors on his portfolio site.
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Hundreds of pendulums swing through Paris’ Grande halle de la Villette for choreographer and artist William Forsythe‘s installation Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time No. 2. The hanging plumbobs sway together in a series of timed sequences, which force visitors into choreographed movements as they avoid the ceiling-mounted works.
“The spectators are free to attempt a navigation of this statistically unpredictable environment, but are requested to avoid coming in contact with any of the swinging pendulums,” says an artist statement regarding Forsythe’s choreographic object. “This task, which automatically intimates and alerts the spectators innate predictive faculties, produces a lively choreography of manifold and intricate avoidance strategies.”
The work has previously been installed at the Circus Street Market as part of the Brighton Festival, the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern, the Arsenale of the Venice Biennale, and will be displayed at la Grande halle de La Villette for le Festival d’Automne à Paris through December 31, 2017. You can see footage from an iteration of the installation at the Museum Folkwang in Essen, Germany in the video above. (via The Kid Should See This)
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In a unique collaboration between French fashion brand Pigalle and design agency Ill-Studio, the Paris Duperré basketball court was recently redesigned and repainted with a vibrant new color scheme. The narrow basketball court is nestled between two apartment buildings in the 9th arrondissement and has become a backdrop of sorts for unconventional color schemes, the first of which appeared in 2015. Photos courtesy Alex Penfornis and Sébastien Michelini. (via It’s Nice That)
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As part of his ongoing series titled Flying Houses, French artist Laurent Chéhère (previously) imagines a world without gravity where unusual architectural structures seem to float midair, tethered only by loose strands of power lines. Each house seems dense with details, telling the story of fictional inhabitants through purposeful details that allude to much deeper stories behind each image. Chéhère draws influence from Jules Verne to Hayao Miyazaki, but most poignantly brings attention to marginalized communities found in Paris, specifically Gypsies and immigrants. By uprooting the houses he hopes the viewer focuses more clearly on them, an act he refers to as “releasing them from the anonymity of the street.”
Each house is actually an extremely detailed photomontage and begins life as a series of sketches. Chéhère then photographs hundreds of elements like antennas, walls, roofs, graffiti, and birds which he then assembles digitally into the pieces you see here.
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The newest installation by Chiharu Shiota (previously here and here) is composed of nearly 300,000 yards of white yarn, woven to encapsulate the center, ground floor, and ten windows of Le Bon Marché. The exhibition, titled Where are we going?, will feature 150 boats within the French department store’s center, and the ground-floor exhibition will house a giant threaded wave that visitors are encouraged to walk through. Despite boats being a common theme in Shiota’s work, this installation will mark the first time she has used white yarn, previously creating installations with only black or red thread.
The title of the exhibition, Where are we going?, refers to the mysterious destinations that pinpoint each of our individual and collective lives. Therefore the boats in this installation represent vessels sailing towards unknown locations, the works expressing both a sense of poetry and a sense of unease over what is to come.
“I am struck by the multiplicity of interactions that we experience every day, by their connections with the past and the future,” said Shiota in an interview with Le Bon Marché. “The creation of this indecipherable mesh and its plasticity are a mystery, just like our brain, the universe, and of course, life. I have no answers, only questions. These questions are the foundations of my work.”
Last year Le Bon Marché organized a large exhibition of Ai WeiWei's work which featured a 65-foot bamboo and silk dragon in the store’s atrium. Shiota’s Where are we going? will be displayed at Le Bon Marché through February 18, 2017. (via Fubiz)
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Editor's Picks: Architecture
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.