Credit: Invader (Paris)
Street art tours by Street Art Paris are not art history graduate-led museum walks around multicultural neighbourhoods…
Although, yes, we do know a little art history, and, well, we do take our guests around socially and ethnically diverse neighbourhoods – and aim to be sensitive to the impact we have on these communities – we also try to give an overall picture of graffiti-street art culture, and that knowledge comes directly from the artists, and from the streets.
We understand that tagging isn’t why people join our tours: usually, they’ve seen art by Banksy (and even watched the Banksy movie), they know Shepard Fairey and the Obey Giant campaign (but generally as a fashion brand!). They probably know or have seen the mosaic pixel work of Paris’ most iconic street artist, Space Invader. Many of our guests are also familiar with the TED Prize winner, JR, and his photographic portraits on the separation wall in Israel-Palestine, the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, or in Cuba, made with Jose Parla. People come on our street art tours for a variety of reasons, but by and large, our guests are interested in just that, publicly valued street art (by this, we mean the non-commissioned stuff that isn’t ‘graffiti’).
Credit: Némo (L), Jerôme Mesnager (C), Mosko et associés (R) (Paris)
However, as much as the people who join our street art tours in Paris want just to see the street art, and not look at tags, usually they come with very little a priori knowledge of street art, nor graffiti, and so, this is why we feel it’s so important to give a little background on the street art movement, and not shrug off the graffiti tagging. Banksy may be as famous today as Andy Warhol, but he started out tagging. We believe it’s impossible to discuss the current movement and tendencies without understanding how it came to be. Indeed, before the term ‘Street Art’ became widespread during the 80’s, every piece in the streets was called graffiti.
Credit: Ben Slow (London)
Of course, ‘art history’ is present in graffiti and street art, too, it’s important stuff, but, we feel it’s also important to know the history of graffiti, and how books and movies marketed a sub-culture which in fact distorted its authenticity, making kids in Europe and other parts of the world believe graffiti was, and still is, merely a synonym for hip-hop. Understanding the origins of graffiti tagging, even if it’s what people often fear and find unattractive, while usually knowing very little about its stylistic conventions or the culture, helps break down these stereotypes, helping our guests see past the scribble on a wall and cultivate an understanding of what lies beneath: the act. More specifically, we want our guests to be able to make sense of the discourse: graffiti, street art, urban art, tagging, and understand the particular dynamic that brings them all together.
Credit: 2501 (Milan)
What we do on our street art tours, here in Paris, is show people beautiful art, as well as explain and show them a bit about graffiti, but more importantly, we ask questions – some of which we don’t even have definite answers to. All of this in order that you come away with a deeper understanding of the graffiti scene, about how the larger street art puzzle fits together, and a new found curiosity, leaving you better qualified to fathom your relationship to public space.
Credit: Ludo (Paris)