If you prefer spray-paint to sculpture, Paris has some surprises for you. While some believe the city has become a living museum, there’s more to Paris than the Louvre, Orsay and the Eiffel Tower. The city also boasts a vibrant underground scene and a growing urban art community.
Urban art is by nature ephemeral. A beautiful wall painting can be there one day and gone the next. So it’s hard to keep up with where to go in order to see the best street art that Paris has to offer. But there are a few key locations where you can be sure to find some of the city’s most interesting graffiti, stencils and murals.
Le M.U.R (the wall) is where urban art in Paris was officially born. In the early 2000s, underground artists took ownership of a large billboard on the rue Oberkampf, constantly covering up the commercial advertisements with graffiti until it became a legal space for street art exhibitions in 2007. Today you can have a drink at the bar (Place Verte) next to the billboard and watch the artists at work.
Just down the road, in the Belleville district, the rue Denoyez has become a must-see for anyone interested in urban art. The little street has been entirely taken over by artists, and is one of the few legal spaces for graffiti. Hold your breath, because the spray-paint fumes can sometimes be overpowering!
Crossing over the river into the 13th arrondissement, Les Frigos is a 1920s building that hosts an artists community, taking its name from its previous role as a storage depot for refrigerated railway wagons. Around 200 artists use the space to exhibit their work, and the entire building is covered in graffiti, inside and out.
While a lot of the places that artists have used to display their art have been closed down for redevelopment (like the Molitor swimming pool, featured in the book and film “The Life of Pi”), the city has realized the need for urban art spaces. The Centre des Halles, in the center of Paris, is being rebuilt and the new site will have 1500m² dedicated to urban culture, including street art exhibitions.
Where there’s a wall…there’s a way!