Street art takes over Paris' Petit Palais

The new "We Are Here" exhibition is introducing graffiti, murals, and graphics amidst these classical artworks. Notably, some statues have even been whimsically adorned with cartoon wings.
An artwork depicting a masked rat by British street-artist Banksy on the back of a parking sign in Paris.  (AFP)
An artwork depicting a masked rat by British street-artist Banksy on the back of a parking sign in Paris. (AFP)

ERBIL (Kurdistan24) – According to a report by Agence France-Presse (AFP), a unique transformation is taking place at the Petit Palais in Paris as approximately 60 of the world’s most celebrated street artists bring their vibrant works into this traditional space, challenging the conventional boundaries of art institutions.

Located along the Seine, the Beaux-Arts palace is renowned for its distinguished collection of 19th-century paintings and sculptures.

However, the new "We Are Here" exhibition is introducing graffiti, murals, and graphics amidst these classical artworks. Notably, some statues have even been whimsically adorned with cartoon wings.

Among the contributors is Tunisian artist DaBro, whose recent portrait seamlessly blends into the solemn 19th-century street scenes, yet features contemporary break-dancers, creating a striking juxtaposition. French artist Invader's pixelated alien positioned above a Monet sunset provides a more jarring contrast.

For some artists, this integration into a prestigious institution feels like a natural progression.

“Street art always has the spirit of invasion. We always want to take over spaces that are not open to us,” explained Chilean artist Inti to AFP, known for his massive murals.

Despite this, Inti expressed reservations to AFP about the potential conflict with street art’s ethos, noting, “To enter into a closed space like this is to enter into an institution -- it's a bit counter to what we try to do outside.”

The commercial success of street art has also raised concerns.

The sale of a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting for $110 million in 2017 and a shredded Banksy artwork for $25 million in 2021 illustrate its commercialization, which some fear may dilute its rebellious essence.

Hush, a street artist from northern England, shares this apprehension. He believes that while street art's acceptance by the establishment might diminish its revolutionary spirit, its core values still challenge the exclusivity of art galleries.

“As a working-class guy, you don't always feel accepted in art museums. With street art, everyone feels allowed to come in,” he told AFP.

He emphasized the importance of retaining control, stating, “The good thing with being from this scene is you don't feel like you have to say yes. It means we're still in control.”

Visitors are greeted by a striking piece from London-based artist D*Face: a giant aerosol can with cartoon wings emerging from the ground.

D*Face explained this to AFP and said that this symbolizes street art’s rise from obscurity to recognition, particularly relevant amid France's current political upheaval following a far-right surge in European elections.

“Urban art is really the first global art movement. You go anywhere in the world and there is a street art community,” D*Face noted, highlighting its inclusive nature in contrast to divisive politics.

The exhibition also features Shepard Fairey, also known as Obey, famous for his "Hope" posters for Barack Obama's campaign.

His piece "Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood," created in response to the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, depicts French icon Marianne with a blood-red tear.

Fairey praised street art's unifying power, saying, “The thing I love about street art is that it brings people together, it's got a generous spirit.” He underscored its role in fostering a sense of shared humanity, which he sees as crucial in today’s divisive climate.

While there are concerns about street art losing its political edge if overly embraced by the elite, Hush remains optimistic about its resilience.

“We've been saying street art is dead since its inception and it has kept evolving,” he said. “But it has come full circle. Street art was against the people who could say yes or no. And now they say yes to us.”

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Credit: Agence France-Presse