French street artist JR trav­els to con­flict zones globe to ini­ti­ate art projects he be­lieves have the and im­pov­er­ished neigh­bour­hoods around the power to al­ter per­cep­tions and change the world

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

Larger than life

HE IS ONE of the most ac­claimed street artists in the world, yet most peo­ple will never know his real name. JR, 32, re­fuses to sign his work or have his photo taken with­out his sun­glasses on – con­ceal­ing his iden­tity as far as pos­si­ble. But his pho­to­graphs of or­di­nary, of­ten anony­mous peo­ple re­pro­duced as mas­sive art­works pasted on to build­ings, side­walks and even trains are far from incog­nito.

JR started his ca­reer as a graf ti artist in Paris in his teens and pasted his rst large-scale pho­tos in one of the city’s poverty-stricken hous­ing projects, known as Les Bos­quets, in 2004. The fol­low­ing year, the area was at the cen­tre of na­tion­wide ri­ots protest­ing youth un­em­ploy­ment and po­lice ha­rass­ment, with the news cov­er­age giv­ing JR’s work un­prece­dented ex­po­sure. Be­tween 2004 and 2006, he cre­ated a work of art called ‘Por­traits of a Gen­er­a­tion’, fea­tur­ing pho­tos of young peo­ple liv­ing in hous­ing projects in Paris. Since then, he has be­come one of the most well-known and re­spected street artists in the world, fo­cus­ing his work in im­pov­er­ished ur­ban ar­eas, from Beth­le­hem in Pales­tine to slums in Nairobi and the sub­urbs of Tu­nis. He’s also ex­hib­ited in do ens of art gal­leries around the world, and the im­pact of his work has been col­lated in a new book, JR: Can Art Change The World? by Nato Thomp­son and Joseph Rem­nant (R9 2, Phaidon Press).

hen the artist and ac­tivist won the 2011 TED Pri e (awarded to ‘ an in­di­vid­ual with a cre­ative, bold vi­sion to spark global change’), he used his pri e money of $1 000 000 (about R14 mil­lion) to launch one of the most am­bi­tious art projects in the world: the In­side Out pro­ject – a par­tic­i­pa­tory art plat­form any­one can send por­traits to, which are then re­turned as posters that the senders can paste where they see t. JR re­ceives no pay­ment for his large-scale ur­ban cre­ations (al­though his other art pieces sell for hun­dreds of euros) and says his cre­ativ­ity is driven by the hope of so­cial change: ‘With op­ti­mism, there is a slight chance that things can change.’

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