Under street art, the Louvre : an ingenious book shining a light on Urban Art26 November 2020
This book “Sous le street art, le Louvre”, which is available only in French unfortunately, has been my bedside books for weeks now. If you follow my street art walks, you know how that I often offer you to see works that flirt with classical painting, such as the ones of Andréa Ravo-Mattoni or those of Pboy and Young Jarus closer to modern or even figurative currents. I have always believed that urban art was an essential gateway, accessible to everyone, to another more conventional form of art. Seeing a child go into ecstasies in front of a Pboy‘s work and have his parents answer him by talking about the original work and context is for me one of the most beautiful way to help younger generations discover the treasures hidden in museums. The lockdown having prevented me from making you discover new walks, I spent a lot of time leafing through my books on street art and finally decided to create a Books section on the blog. But I am neither a literary critic nor an art critic; so it’s with my own feelings that I will share with you my very subjective perspective on each book, and to illustrate each review, i will us my own photos rather than those of the book in question. A new exercise that could only begin with “Sous le street art, le Louvre” by Cyrille Gouyette which is a book that I never tire of and that I plan to offer in large numbers for the end of year celebrations!
Cyrille Gouyette, man of culture, brings a breath of fresh air to the works of the Louvre
If I called this author a free electron of culture, maybe that name would not suit him. But it fairly well represents the image that emerges from this character able to passionately rediscover the most classic works through street art. According the little story, he would have had a shock, a revelation during his visit in Paris of the Art42 School-Museum in 2015… As if he had not previously seen the walls of paris adorned with works of all kinds… Sincerely considering the fascinating little stories I reveled in on his YouTube channel, I find it hard to imagine this charismatic scholar borrowing since 1993, when he entered the Louvre, a secret passage to bring him straight back to home without going though the metro, graffitis and murals offered by the city of Paris
This “street artian” electric shock is perhaps due to the fact of seeing these works brought together in one place, the multiplicity of works and their variety perhaps had more effect than the works isolated outside. After this crisp anecdote, I will not dwell on the author’s journey within the sacrosanct Louvre or his unfailing and limitless cultural commitment. I am simply going to offer you to see one of his tasty videos in which he juggles with the French Language with style in only one minute, to give you a judicious light on a urban art work.
Associating the great classics of painting with urban art: a perilous exercise!
You certainly do not see the perilous side of the exercise that Cyrille Gouyette carried out, because if you follow me it is because you like to discover new works of street art. It is also that you know very well that a large number of artists have had a classical training and know how to use, like the masters of another century, different techniques in order to achieve their works. What you may be less imagining are the inflammatory messages I have been getting since I started the blog; very aggressive messages towards urban art which according to their detractors has no common measure with “real painting”. “Sous le street art, le Louvre” is therefore much more daring than it seems at first glance!
Is this work capable of appeasing detractors or enthusiasts of classical painting ? Isn’t it too fanciful in its large stylistic variation from the Louvre to the street? I will try to answer these questions in my own way by moving on to the “critical” stage of the book itself.
“Sous le street art, Le Louvre” : another reading of street art
To say that the subject was treated with great delicacy would be an understatement! The author was smart enough not to write a chronological educational novel; but a work to be enjoyed as you wish, no obligation to start at the beginning even if it refers to the artist Lasco who reproduces paintings from a place now inaccessible to the public. Opening a random page is the best way to taste this book!
This book sheds light on the sources of inspiration of many urban artists; we learn that Speedy Graphito was built with the Louvre, that Blek le Rat wanted to bring out the Louvre’s art on the streets and that it was an inexhaustible source of inspiration for the artist Madame.
We discover that Mona Lisa, admired by a few million visitors each year, is an incredible source of inspiration for Street Artists; which only half surprises us. But also that other masterpieces like “La Liberté guidant le Peuple” by Eugène Delacroix or “Bonaparte franchissant le grand Saint Bernard” by Jacques-Louis David have given rise to an astonishing number of interpretations!
Of course, this book does not stop at the beauty of the museum’s work and its transportation into our urban world. Even if artist like Andréa Ravo-Mattoni works on a duty of memory and transmission, others are more invested and translate into modern language commitments, political demands, identity affirmations… Cyrille Gouyette has been able to combine the beautiful, the form with intent and substance throughout its chapters.
Where the author has shown great delicacy is the way in which the book is constructed so as not to offend any sensitivity while continuing his research work with dexterity. He differentiates with an elegant subtlety the reproduction & the interpretation of a work, the inspiration it may have aroused, and the diversion it may have undergone.
And there comes the moment when a work of street art looks nothing like a painting in the Louvre but makes you think of it through a particular gesture, the intensity of a look, the shape of a face, poetry or tenderness that emanates from the work. This part of the work appeals to the interpretation of the viewer, and also to his feelings; it was done with great sensitivity and I’m sure you will look at any piece of street art with a new kind of attention.
To tell you that this book will change the outlook of urban art’s detractors would be presumptuous. But I’m sure they would read it with as much curiosity and enthusiasm as I do. The way the works respond to each other is magical; a riche text and a high vocabulary add an extra soul to the carefully selected works. but do not be afraid, the text is not too present, it carries the many works and accompanies your gaze. This book is to read as much as it is to look.
Should you immerse yourself in reading “Sous le street art, Le Louvre” ?
It is with a masterful YES that I will answer you! If you like street art, you will be passionate about classic references that you may have missed in the past. If you wonder about legitimacy of Urban Art, you will have an informed answer to this one. It might even make you want to go back to see classical art in the Louvre after reading it! And if you have a great classic lover around you; this book will capture his curiosity and perhaps shed another light on what urban art really is.
With this book, Cyrille Gouyette brings street art into the History of Art through a beautiful door. A big Thank you to him for this great achievement.
“Sous le street art, le Louvre” is published in French by Editions Alternatives and is available for the modest sum of 25 euros on Amazon.
The photos illustrating this first book’s presentation come from my street art walks in Boulogne-sur-mer and Canal de l’Ourcq in Paris for Andréa Ravo-Mattoni, at the Ordener Wall for Pboy, in the Frigos district of Paris for Tristan Eaton, and that of the incredible open-air museum of street art – Boulevard Paris 13 for Conor Harrington.
See you soon for a new street art adventure on the Lower East Side of Manhattan!