Montmartre is full of artists, but you’re probably not looking on the side of buildings for them. They may not have the pull of the Louvre or the romanticism of Place du Tertre, but there are magnificent works of street art to be discovered all around the city. Home to internationally renowned urban artists, the 18th arrondissement is the perfect place to start acquainting yourself with Paris street art.
Street Art Montmartre Style
Wander along the cobbled streets of Montmartre and sooner or later you’ll stumble across a piece of street art. These are no graffiti tags or unintelligible scrawls. Those steep Montmartre steps offer up works of art to make you think. The stencil illustration of a small boy washing in a Louis Vuitton bucket, for starters. The painting is intelligent and thought provoking. It’s hard to forget the image once seen. It sits beside a flight of Montmartre steps leading up to the Sacre Coeur. Sprayed next to it is ‘Amour’ the tag of Jean-Luc Duez. A man so lovelorn that he obsessively wrote ‘love’ across the streets, park benches and pavements of Paris for years after being jilted by his lover. It’s an uncurated, urban gallery, waiting to reveal itself.
Invader Street Art
Paris has a thriving street art scene. One of the most famous (and longstanding) is French urban artist, Invader. A graduate of the École des Beaux-Arts, identifying as UFA (Unidentified Free Artist). He aims to liberate art from the potentially “alienating space of museums and galleries”. UFA began using Paris as his canvas before embarking upon an international invasion.
With over 1000 installations, his Space Invaders project has been decorating Parisian buildings since 1998. Describing his choice of well known sites as ‘urban acupuncture‘ he creates mosaic representations of pixilated 1980s space invader game images. Invader has inspired other artists to install their own tiled copies around the world. Rather than regard these other artists as interlopers, Invader believes that he has started a movement. UFA publishes a series of invader maps, including the birth date and location of each individual piece. There’s also an app for anyone wanting to discover his art in the capital.
Receiving international acclaim, Invader featured in Banksy’s documentary ‘Exit through the gift shop. He has also hosted solo exhibitions in Paris, London and Rome. His more recent work has incorporated Rubik’s Cubes or ‘Rubikscubism’ as he prefers it to be known. So popular has his work become that it’s now at risk of being stolen, commanding six figure sums from collectors. Invaders response? Harder to reach installations and the agreement from building owners to host his installations legally.
Will you see Invader on your travels? Probably not. He works under the cover of darkness, often wearing a mask. And if you do see a photo of UFA? You’ll notice that just like his artwork, it’s pixilated.
Murals, Mosaics & Stencils. Oh My!
The street artists in Montmartre use a variety of medium. You’ll see everything from traditional spray can painting, murals, poster art, 3D, 2D, mosaics, along with posters and stencils pasted onto walls.
Gregos Street Art
One of the more unusual artists is Gregos. Self taught, he creates 3D sculptural art of his own face around the streets of Paris. Based in Montmartre, he installs replicas of his face in a variety of colours and poses around the city. Each face represents his mood on any given day. His work is painted or glued onto the capital’s walls.
There are over 1000 of his sculptures embellishing buildings around Paris alone. His work has travelled as far as Shoreditch, Japan, Malta and South America. Each face chronicling the mood of Gregos, past, present and future.
Paris celebrates street art as as a genre in its own right. Roam outside of Montmartre and you’ll discover a plethora of art for free. It’s a new take on old artist haunts minus admission fees. Renoir, Picasso, Dali, Lautrec, Braque and Van Gogh would be nodding their heads in approval.