Parental Warning: The following article may encourage your child to vandalize public property in the name of art.
Is it possible to adore graffiti without promoting illegal activities? Is this like the square and the rectangle, or am I required to admit to one if I want to have the other? So be it then—I think graffiti, masterfully done and tastefully placed, enriches our society. Take Paris, for instance, with its once-marble-white walls, stained by centuries of dirt and decapitations. A splash of color and a slew of provocative phrases make the place much more interesting and far less dreary. At least that’s what I discovered last weekend.
My friend Matt (merci des centaines fois!) took a group of us on a graffiti tour of one of Paris’s coolest neighborhoods, Belleville. Hip. Edgy. Cheap. Happening. Belleville is the hub of this city’s eccentric, grungy underground.
There is graffiti all over this neighborhood, so naturally there is no set route. However, if you’re going to go on a tour yourself, you should make sure to hit these key spots:
- Le MUR: This is an ever-changing mural on the corner of rue St. Maur and rue Oberkampf that is supported by the Association Modulable, Urbain, Réactif. The association invites a different street artist to come paint a new mural every month or so. It’s a true example of living art.
- Rue Dénoyez (pictured above): This is perhaps the most graffitied street in Paris. Full of artists’ studios, restaurants and cafés, Rue Dénoyez is an entire museum in and of itself.
- La Petite Ceinture: “The Little Belt” (pictured below) is an abandoned railway that runs around the periphery of Paris. It was used back in the 1800s, but was later abandoned in the 1930s as the city evolved. Now, it’s a canvas.
If you’re hoping to see a side of Paris you’ve yet to discover, a graffiti tour of Belleville is sure to deliver. In only a couple of hours you can escape the classic Parisian ambiance and enter the city’s edgy alternative universe.
Now go out there and be a hipster.