Paris street art and culture

the most prolific bastion of the street art movement

Paris street art and culture is arguably the most prolific bastion of the movement. While New York City street art and graffiti evolved from the hip hop movement in the 1970s, the Paris scene was already simmering during the 1960’s avant garde period. An art practice emerging out of resistance was the perfect fit for a city which always nurtured the spirit of revolution.  


Perhaps the most revered pioneer of the movement is Ernest Pignon, a situationist whose pasted up silkscreen portraits throughout the 1970s tell an alternative modern historyBig names in the Paris street art scene began emerging in the 1980s, beginning with the world famous Blek le Rat. Largely responsible for introducing the stencil medium, Blek le Rat’s innovative, life-size rat stencils and other signature imagery has most famously inspired the work of the prolific Banksy, who acknowledges their profound influence openly. 


Following suit, artists such as Jef Aerosol and the pioneering female Miss Tic emerged - spotting stencils across the city. By the 1990s however, many Parisian street art treasures were buffed by the super-expensive cleaning action, and the few which remain today are fervently protected. 


This was no deterrent however, to the various creatives working in the scene in the 1990s. One whose style matured over that decade is Zevs (Zeus), whose liquified Louis Vuitton and Chanel Logos earned him global attention.  Another is Monsieur Chat who’s signature yellow cats amuse and elevate mood across billboards, metro stations and other expected or less expected Parisian architecture. 


Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, this new generation of street artists bore a completely novel idea of what street art is, and what it should be. Official attitudes towards the movement began changing as well, and large-scale murals, graffiti projects and street art organizations made their way into the heart of Paris legally. Emerging out of the 1990s, the iconic Invader, earlier Space Invader, has become world famous for his little mosaic emulations of the old video game characters, dispersed across the globe. Now commanding up to $1 million at auction, his career exemplifies the embracing of the movement by the art market.


Similarly indicative of this shift is André Saraiva, who grew to recognisable status by the 1990s for his stick-figure character, Mr. A: most often seen wearing a top hat, with one of his eyes x-ed out. The artist epitomizes the centrality of street art and culture within Parisian design, fashion and architecture, through his collaborations with designers such as Danish homeware brand Vipp, and various street, footwear and luxury fashion labels.


May 25, 2022