Street Art in Paris’ Belleville District
With numerous museums like the Louvre, Musée D’Orsay, and Musée del O’rangerie, Paris has no shortage of art to marvel at. However, it also has a very interesting and vibrant street art scene. So if you’ve never been to the French capital or too worn-out to make a beeline to another museum, why not wander around and get to know a different side of the city. Let the walls speak to you.
If you don’t know where to begin, I highly recommend joining a street tour like UndergroundParis, specially if you want to see real (publicly valued) street art and not just look at tags. The tour starts near the UndergroundParis office at rue Oberkampf and takes you to two charming neighborhoods, Belleville and Ménilmontant, off the tourist tracks. You don’t need to have any prior knowledge about the street art movement, as the program will introduce you to several local artists and the Paris urban scene. The 3-hour tour will not only teach you how to distinguish different artists, styles, and techniques; you will also gain a deeper appreciation about the sub-culture – seeing pass the writings on the wall and understanding what lies under the ink.
Some interesting finds in the area include works by local artists like COMBO, Monsieur BMX, Mega Matt and Le Module de Zeer. You will also come across some famous international names like VHILS from Portugal and Shepard Fairey from the United States. The tour then makes its way to the dazzling rue Dénoyez, where it’s legal to carry out as much spraying and tagging as you like. At the end of the street is Belleville’s bustling Chinatown, where two famous pieces can be found: the ‘detective’ by Jean Le Gac which was created in 1986, and an enormous chalk-on-blackboard installation by Ben Vautier. After climbing up a pretty steep hill, the tour ends at Parc de Belleville, the city’s highest elevated park, where you are treated to some instragram-worthy murals by Seth GlobePainter, and not to mention, a breathtaking view of Paris.
Here are some photos of the photos I took during the tour with UndergrounParis:
Across from UndergroungParis’ office are Shepard Fairey‘s OBEY giant and Chiot‘s colorful ladder work. Shepard Fairey is an American artist and activist known for his “Andre the Giant Has a Posse” (…OBEY…) sticker campaign and Barack Obama’s “Hope” poster for the 2008 US presidential elections. Chiot is a French artist noted for creating his colorful logo of toilets up high on roofs and fire escape ladders.
Walking further along rue Fontaine de la Au Roi is a massive work by VHILS (Alexandre Farto), a renowned international artist from Portugal whose signature style is known as reverse graffiti – where he pulls back layers of the wall’s surface to sculpt faces on it.
At rue Bisson is a hypnotizing piece by Never2501 whose technique of using monochromatic line art achieves an organic and 3D feel. It truly is very pleasing to the eyes!
At rue Lemon is Alexis Diaz‘s ‘Whale Ship”. The Puerto Rican-born artist’s signature mark is the use of small black brushstrokes on white background to make his creations look like highly-detailed pen-and-ink drawings. He is known for his chimeral and dreamlike renditions of fauna in a state of metamorphosis.
Rue Dénoyez is a small street overtaken by graffiti and street artists. It is one of the few areas in the city where street art is legal.
Walking along rue de Belleville, home to many Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants, you won’t miss the massive installation by Ben Vautier, who in 1993, created this work of urban art at Place Fréhel. It depicts two men (actual life-size puppets) lowering a huge blackboard with the words “Il faut se méfier des mots,” which means Beware of Words. Also on the same street corner is a mural of a detective created by Jean Le Gac in 1986.
Finally, at Parc de Belleville there are several murals by Julien Malland aka Seth GlobePainter. His vibrant and colorful renditions of children staring into or being sucked by colorful voids, has become popular the world over. Check out more of his work on Instagram and Flickr.
Also at the top of the hill, be treated to a spectacular view of Paris and the Eiffel Tower.
UndergroundParis Street Tours
Belleville Street Art Tour. Every Saturday at 11 AM. Departs from 105 rue Oberkampf, Paris, 75011, in front of Café Place Verte (near to Parmentier metro station – line 3). Finishes close to Belleville metro station – line 2 and 11.
Left Bank Street Art Tour. Every Sunday at 1 PM. Departs from The ‘Wallace Fountain’, Place de la Commune de Paris, 75013 (near to Place d’Italie and Corvisart metro stations – line 5, 6 and 7). Finishes close to Nationale metro station – line 6.