The biggest collective exhibition of street art ever imagined opened in a Paris tower-block on Monday. Over the last seven months more than 100 street artists from all over the world have dropped in at the Tour Paris 13 (Paris 13 Tower) and graffed the walls and floors of 36 apartments. True to the counter-culture spirit, it’ll all disappear by the end of the year when the tower-block, which used to house railworkers, is demolished.
Vexta, an Australian street artist who now lives in the US, spent two days on her skull-inspired mural. Like many of the artists she was drawn to the ephemeral nature of the project and is curious to know the public’s reaction. “It’s very much part of Street Art and graffiti culture to go into empty buildings and paint," she says. "So I think probably every artist that’s made work in here has climbed into an abandoned building and painted on the walls. It’s just something that usually the public don’t get to see.”
The project was the brainchild of gallery owner and Street Art fanatic Medhi Ben Cheikh. With the backing of local officials in Paris’s 13th arrondissement he’d already brought in street artists from abroad to work on huge murals in the neighbourhood. When he heard a tower block overlooking the Seine and right next to the overland metro was due to be demolished, the idea for a huge Street Art lab took shape. “We wanted to bring the tower back to life once more before it disappeared,” he says. Every time he heard a street artist was coming to Europe, he’d get them on board. The project provided accommodation and materials; in return artists gave their art for free: a key ingredient for keeping street cred.
Ben Cheikh wanted to show the international nature of the movement. Artists are from 15 nationalities from countries as diverse as Saudi Arabia, Brazil, US and France. “Street art is the first truly international artistic movement,” he says. “It’s as if you had impressionism all over the world... at the same time and not 30 years later as was the case for many movements.” Every artist brings their own culture to bear but thanks to the internet it can be conveyed in real time. “When someone’s paints a wall in Atlanta or Ouagadougou everyone sees the result the same day," Ben Cheikh says. "That’s what’s so strong about it.”
© Rfi / France