Paris, a Living Gallery of Art! Simply cast your gaze upwards, and behold the awe-inspiring masterpieces that adorn the cityscape: from graffiti that symbolizes the vibrant hip-hop culture, to whimsical stencils, evocative collages, and monumental murals that grace countless facades, each telling its own unique story.
Between Montmartre and the Butte-aux-Cailles, keep on the lookout because even the smallest space is an invitation to create art, and in many places in Paris, concrete surfaces are covered in colourful murals.So, if you are in the mood for an unusual walk to discover Paris through its street art, here are 6 districts to explore.
13th arrondissement: massive murals
In recent years, the 13th arrondissement of Paris has become the hotspot for street artists and is now a veritable open air museum! In the vicinity of the Nationale metro station, on the Rue Jeanne d’Arc and Boulevard Vincent Auriol, you can see more than a dozen frescoes! The American artist Shepard Fairey has created several of them, including one with the French motto: ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’.
Just next to it is a mosaic several metres high, by French artist Invader, representing the TV drama series House.
You only have to stroll around the area to come face to face with a masterpiece like the monumental mural titled Embrace and Fight depicting two men in 18th-century costume, created by Irish artist Conor Harrington.
From Oberkampf to Ménilmontant: street art galore
In the east of Paris, the districts of Oberkampf, Belleville and Ménilmontant are rich in street art. Thanks to associations like Art Azoï and the Mur Oberkamp, some facades even have their own artistic programming!Every two or three weeks, a new artist is invited to express their artistic creation in a space on a level with 107 Rue Oberkampf (11th).
The performance takes place in public during the day and is a real treat for onlookers! Going up Rue de Ménilmontant (19th), you’ll come across the iconic mural by Jérôme Mesnager of people standing in a circle singing the glory of the musical past of the neighbourhood. Farther on in the same street, the facade of the Pavillon Carré de Baudoin is repainted regularly by well-known artists.
Finally, to enjoy a bit of nature on your urban art trip, take a walk in the Parc de Belleville (20th), where the works of street artists such as Seth, Kenor and El Pez embellish walls and pillars.
The district of La Villette: murals by more than one artist
In Rue de l’Ourcq (19th), near to the canal, a long wall is full of colourful artworks by local artists, each working in their own style. Look out for ethnic masks by DaCruz, dancers by graffiti artist Psy and light-painting portraits by Marko 93.
A quarter of an hour’s walk away in Rue d’Aubervilliers (19th) is the longest mural in Paris, completed in 2015. Over an expanse of 493 metres, numerous street artists like Kashink, Combo and JonOne have paid tribute to African-American woman Rosa Parks, who famously refused to give up her seat to a white person on the bus. A multiple work that communicates a sense of peace and living in harmony with one another that is specific to this ethnically mixed neighbourhood in the north of Paris.
And just opposite the Parc de la Villette, in the commune of Pantin, there is a real open-air street art museum: 27 Pantin. About thirty artists have participated in the embellishment of the district of block 27: Demoiselle MM, Da Cruz, Pia, Kashink, Claks One and many others. Collective works are also to be discovered. The works are renewed every 3 years. Lovers and the curious can admire the frescoes freely by wandering between the buildings of the district or thanks to visits available on #ExploreParis.
The centre of Paris: from Beaubourg to Gainsbourg
From the district of les Halles to the former home of Serge Gainsbourg, the walls in the city centre are a playground for artists.
In Place Igor-Stravinsky (4th), for example, a 350² metre mural titled Chuuuttt!!! (Hush!), by urban stencil artist Jef Aérosol, depicts the face of a man holding his finger up to his lips to invite the onlooker to pay attention to the sounds of life around them. In Rue de la Verrerie (4th), M.Chat has covered the roller shutter of the BHV Homme department store with bouncy yellow cats. Finally, on one of the walls of the Espace des Blancs-Manteaux is a portrait created for International Women’s Day in 2014, by the artist Gregos – known for exhibiting plaster casts of his own face.
In Rue de Verneuil, over on the other side of the Seine, is the former home of singer and poet Serge Gainsbourg. Since his death in 1991, its wall is regularly covered in graffiti, drawings, paintings and collages, paying tribute to this musician, much loved by the French.
Street art is also flourishing in neighbouring towns, like Vitry-sur-Seine. On the corners of walls, on pavements, electric terminals and lamp posts, it is not unusual to spot all kinds of creations: stencils, small collages, graffiti, and paintings. Vitry is a town committed to art thanks to its artists and public authorities.
And the town has its fair share of monumental art too. Opposite the RER station in Rue St Pierre Sémard is the iconic ‘French robot’ by the Italian artist Pixel Pancho. And not far from the MAC VAL – Musée d’Art contemporain du Val-de-Marne art centre, two African warriors, spear in hand, are of an impressive height … They were created by the artist Kouka, in 2013, as a tribute to Nelson Mandela.
Street art in Saint-Denis
Greater Paris has plenty of surprises in store and a whole range of street artists have used Saint-Denis in particular as their playground. Fresh tags, graffiti, stencils and collages are constantly popping up in the streets, and a bold new project has also made its appearance – the Street Art Avenue, which runs along the Canal Saint-Denis between La Villette, Aubervilliers and Saint-Denis. Launched in 2016, this initiative now comprises a large number of works spread over several kilometres.
There is a tale by Seth on the lockmaster’s house, a monumental graphic mural by Tarek Benaoum, colourful geometric shapes by Polar and much more. This open-air gallery showcases work by local and international artists and provides insight into the array of techniques used by street artists. This spring, the fifth edition of the Street Art Avenue will once again display some amazing art that is definitely worth the trip.
Street art indoors
In Paris, you can also see street art in museums and galleries! On cold winter days, a great place to warm up is Art42 (17th), the first French urban museum. Two other places dedicate part of their collection to street art and urban art:the Fab. of agnès b. and the Fluctuart boat, a cultural and festive place moored near the Pont des Invalides.
Some galleries also programme rich and diverse exhibitions of street art: the galleries Mathgoth (13th) and Brugier-Rigail (3rd), Openspace (11th), Artistik Rezo (11th), Backslash (3rd), the Cabinet d’amateur (11th), Celal (1st), Itinerrance (13th), the gallery Wallworks (10th) and the gallery Magda Danysz (11th).
Discover street art with a guide
For a crash course in street art, the best thing is to stroll around the different areas of the capital with an expert. Many agencies offer guided tours to admire the city’s street art scene, such as My Urban Experience, Fresh Street Art Tour Paris, What’s up Paname, Bénédicte Dorangeon. It’s an excellent way to explore the city while ensuring you don’t miss out on any of the street art must-sees in Paris.