A walk around the 20th neighbourhood in Paris will introduce you to a grittier, more diverse side of Paris than you are used to seeing. Gone is your typical 19th century city, with its classic Haussmannian architecture and chic shopfronts; in its place you’ll find vibrantly coloured and often politically-subversive street art ready to catapult you into the 21st Century. Street art in Paris, and especially in the 20th arrondissement, saw a boom in the 1980s, going from strength to strength with association-lead incentives to bring colour to the city of light.
The areas of Oberkampf, Ménilmontant and Belleville are particularly good neighbourhoods to explore if you want a true glimpse and the constantly changing face of street art in Paris.
About Street Art in Paris
Flying in the face of your preconceptions, Paris does not always adhere to strict preservation of its chic image. The city is actually very liberal when it comes to its street artists, and has many dedicated spots where they can exercise their artistic abilities. However, we are not just talking about writing your name on a piece of property you do not own with a can of spray paint (although, if you’re looking for samples of this, many can be found on Paris’ RER lines). Street art in Paris is made to make you stop, and think. You will be made to ponder on the city you are in, the politics of today or even to make you think about beauty in a way you had not previously considered. Street art, for many Parisians, in considered to be visual poetry that is contemporary in nature. It is forever changing, so it’s best to take a photo of a piece of street art you particularly like, before another artists leaves his mark on the capital.
Le M.U.R., pictured, can be found at At 107 rue Oberkampf. It is a dedicated space for street artists to compete and produce something innovative and artistic for the area every 4 weeks. The chosen artist has one day to create his or her temporary masterpiece, much to the amazement of onlookers. Be sure to check out their website and see when the next inauguration will take place, this may be one of the rare chances to see street art in action, as the artist comes out from the cover of night to publicly paint their art.
In under a minute’s walk you can then explore the rue Saint Maur. This is a 2km-long street, on which you can see the work of some of Paris’ hottest street art stars. On this list is artist Kashink- arguably Paris’ most important, female street artist of today. Her work, pictured above, can be characterised by strong colours and lines, themes of feminism and more than a passing comparison to work by Frida Kahlo.
A stroll along rue de Ménilmontant will soon bring the work entitled ‘ C’est nous les gars de Ménilmontant’ to your attention. Situated at the cross roads between rue de Ménilmontant and rue Sorbier, this piece of street art has been around since 1995. A piece full of dynamic movement, and a reference to Maurice Chevalier’s song ‘les gars de Ménilmontant’, Jérôme Mesnager had to wait seven years to unveil his most photographed creation.
Also to be found in Ménilmontant is the street art created by the collective No Rules Corp. A bustling work that shows the diversity of its creators, which include musicians, photographers, painters and many other forms of artists. Find this on the corner of the Rue de l’Elysée Ménilmontant and Rue Julien Lacroix.
The parc de Belleville is not only a great spot for some of the best views of the Eiffel tower, but also to peek at some of Paris’ best street art.
These colourful depictions of children and adults escaping through their own reveries is beautifully symbolic and wonderfully appropriate for this viewing spot of Paris. Much like in the artist Seth’s street art, as you look into the distance you can escape into the beauty and charm of Paris’ cityscape.
Another street art hotspot in Belleville is the famous rue Denoyez.
The entirety of this small street is filled with a busy mixture of graffiti and street art. More than just a street art gallery, it has become a community where street artists gather from all four corners of the globe to share and explore art, and put their own stamp onto the forever-changing walls. The best thing about rue Denoyez, is that with every visit, you are sure to find something new.
So, what are your thoughts on street art? A tarnish on the otherwise perfect facade of Paris, or an interesting manifestation of art? I look forward to seeing your comments below!