Street art in Port-Barcarès, south of France, is as breathtaking as it is improbable!10 October 2022
To say that Street Art is anchored in the DNA of Port-Barcarès would be lying to you! It is true that the promenade, which was called “allée des arts” in the 1970s, had a very successful period, especially thanks to the huge liner called the Lydia, which had been transformed into a casino. The gigantic odouma wood totem statues that adorn the promenade caused a stir in the contemporary art world at the time, and they still stand on the promenade today as reminders of a bygone era. The other works that punctuated the walk along the beach have been restored, but there is nothing very “urban art” about them. In fact, the seaside resort of Port-Barcarès is better known for its immense sandy beach, its wind and its perpetual sunshine, which make it an unmissable surfing spot. But now, the town hall has decided to re-enchant the Allee des Arts and as it was a precursor in the 70s with emerging contemporary artists, it has decided to strike hard with explosive urban artists! The medium was found: maritime containers!
June 2021, Street Art takes possession of Port-Barcarès: the result is amazing!
Summer 2021, I receive a small text message from my friend Bérengère who alerts me to the fact that something is happening near Barcarès, a sandy lagoon located between Narbonne and Perpignan. At first I find it hard to believe and after some research I find information sparingly. A few names jump out at me: Case Maclaim, Kraser Tres, Julieta_XLF, Alber,… the idea of containers seduces me and I see that they are starting to be moved. I jump in my car and arrive on site. The sight is breathtaking. The hard blue sky at the end of the day is hitting the monumental works of art with their shimmering colours!
I’m like a crazy person; the vision of palm trees and the Mediterranean makes the spot completely surreal! Without thinking about why or how, or even what editorial line this incredible installation might have, I turn on my camera and start a Facebook Live!
As soon as the Live finishes, the sun declines and I run in all directions to immortalise the moment! Because the works have already started to be moved… I leave happy to have been able to see these works, my heart filled with colours and I promise myself to come back the year after if the town hall prolongs this incredible project.
Season two begins for the open-air museum in Port-Barcarès
It is with undisguised excitement that I drive to Port-Barcarès 365 days after my first visit. I tried not to look at the social networks to see if the surprise of the previous year would be repeated! I’m pacing in the car when in the distance I see a work by Millo, an artist I appreciate for his poetic universe and his talent as an XXL illustrator. I understand that the works have already started to be moved!
I still hope to find some of them on the art alley and to feel once again that wow effect and that agitation that made me run everywhere. When I arrived on site, I was very disappointed; the art alley was deserted and it was difficult to know where the works of art had been moved! Containers don’t really go unnoticed… But the people I meet have never been interested in them! So I decide to head towards the port, at least to get some information. When I arrive at the harbour side I see on my right, on a huge empty field which must be used as a car park in high season, the work of Veks Van Hillik. Atypical place, surrealist effect assured. The work seems to me to be alone and the immensity of the ground could have accommodated others. I now hope to discover them in an incredible spot!
I go around a roundabout and there, in the middle of the masts of the sailing boats of the port, the containers appear to me. I don’t really see where they are placed, but I hasten to get closer… the disappointment is great! The containers, that is to say the works of art, are piled up on the car park of the port in the middle of the cars!
Of course, there is a curation and the theme of the sea is recurrent… the colours of the works, always very bright, shine in the sun… But here we are on a car park! The works do not respond to each other but clash due to the lack of space and it is difficult to appreciate them in their entirety because of the cars and construction site huts.
So there is an editorial line for the artists who have given their best. But good curation also means good “hanging”, and here we couldn’t do worse. Even the empty car park where Veks Van Hillik‘s work is lost would have been a better idea than this cramped car park for XXL containers.
Of course my disappointment is subjective and inversely proportional to the previous year’s crush. But I am also disappointed and sad for the artists Nychos, Abys, Belin, Kalouf, Juanjo Surace, Nicolas Baromme Forgues because seeing their work start in Allée des Arts and end up in a car park is not something to be happy about. I am always very sympathetic to projects in small towns. Using urban art to attract more tourism is quite commendable, it is an asset like any other. On the other hand, doing anything with the artists’ works tends to annoy me!
The end of Street Art in Port-Barcarès?
What a funny idea! I sincerely hope that there will be a third edition because maritime containers are incredible surfaces of expression for urban artists. I also hope that the organisation will have thought deeply about how and where to place the works of the previous editions to pay tribute to them. They have some beautiful works and could make a very nice Street Art route with a small interactive map 😉
I am sure that if you come to Barcarès in June and see the work of the artists in the “allée des arts”, you will be blown away by this incredible setting. Other towns such as Boulogne-sur-mer have managed to put on high quality curations, why not Port-Barcarès? I also hope that if there is a third edition, it will put forward the female talents of the urban art world; they are numerous and the city of Port-de-Bouc has understood this and shows a nice parity in terms of creation. As I am not obtuse, I will return to Port-Barcarès next summer to let you know the evolution of this open-air museum;-)
I’m off to new Street Art adventures and of course, if you liked it, share it!
See you soon!