Will the Tuileries Tunnel become the Parisian icon of street art like the Leake Street Tunnel in London?1 December 2022
Since the end of July, the Tuileries tunnel in Paris has become the playground of urban artists and graffiti artists. Located below the Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens, it has been abandoned to bikes and pedestrians since 2016, but everyone still preferred to stay on the high bank with a view of the Seine because the place was so sad, even gloomy! This year, the City of Paris has decided to put urban art in the spotlight with a major retrospective exhibition in the Hôtel de Ville and the organisation of a facelift for the tunnel thanks to a dozen urban artists handpicked by the exhibition curator, none other than Nicolas Laugero Lasserre. But here’s the thing: the clean frescoes that oscillated between urban and contemporary art were quickly taken over by local graffiti artists! How could the City of Paris have imagined that this “spot” would not give rise to envy or jealousy? Of course, some of the “vandal” artists were in the curator’s collection and it is very likely that he had a small intention to make the place live;-) But from a very reliable source, I know that some of the artists who came to put their signature did so without any prior request and above all without authorization! How can an urban artist not succumb to the idea of placing his work at the foot of the Louvre! I can imagine the extreme pleasure they must have had in doing so and I thank them for it, because this place is now magical!
What remains of the original works of the project?
Some artists have been more “lucky” than others. In fact, it may surprise you to know that the most preserved works are those that are on the side of the bicycle traffic. Yes, in Paris, bicycles go faster than cars, so going over an existing work can be quite risky! Andréa Ravo-Mattoni‘s work is the most preserved of all and at the same time it was certainly the original masterpiece of the show, since our Italian artist, well known for taking works out of museums, has created a magnificent work, unique in its kind, by integrating extracts from five works of classical painting. A work of goldsmith!
The very graphic works by Hydrane, Ërell, Sifat or the tribute to Jacques Villeglé by Lek & Sowat are almost intact… A few tags stray here and there on the works but do not damage their immensity !
Other works are also intact. I have chosen to focus on this one also to make you understand the immensity of this tunnel and the accentuation of its perspective by these very geometrical works. You might imagine that their work is simpler than apparently more complex works. In fact, this is not the case, Ërell’s work required 8 whole days of work!
Other artists have been much less fortunate, such as Mathieu Dussaucy, alias Mathieu_1976, whose work I put on the cover of this article. While talking with him I understood his sadness in seeing so much work erased at high speed and at the same time I can’t get enough of the power of his elephant which takes on a whole new dimension in the middle of the neighbouring graffiti!
The Tuileries Tunnel: An explosion of constantly renewed creativity!
The multiplicity of works, the diversity of subjects and the speed with which they are replaced show us how culture is still alive in the heart of the capital! This explosion of colours and creations is also an explosion of life. Without these incredible places, Paris would only be a museum city whose artists would have disappeared. What makes a city dynamic is change, and here we have change! What makes this place attractive is the vibration that comes out of it, the sensations that you can feel. Some works stay longer than others, but with each visit new wonders await us. I decided to share 10 pictures I took in the tunnel to try to make you feel this exceptional spot!
This Tuileries Tunnel shows us extraordinary compositions in which artists from different backgrounds intermingle. By combining these works into one through photography, we sometimes obtain images with a very good balance, both in terms of colour and construction. Henry Hang‘s hip-hop dancers and Psykoze Nolimit‘s Boy are a prime example! The whole thing, linked by a red and yellow graffiti by Lek, offers the eyes a moving spectacle in front of which you could almost hear the trailer of the famous H.I.P H.O.P show by DJ Sidney!
How can you still talk about graffiti when your eyes are caught by a Rea One creation? His waves and arabesques are like vibrations in the air. The complexity of his structures, the lightness of his works that could fly away, the level of technicality… everything is perfection. And here, in front of such a level of execution, I sometimes say to myself that the word graffiti is not necessarily very adapted anymore. This tunnel is really pure happiness !
“Vibrate to the sound of the city’s murmur”… That’s the title that came to mind when I came across this portrait of the young woman artist Poulain, whom I had discovered during the event les 25 au 104. Invited by the curator to put her signature on the wall of the Tuileries tunnel, she manages, with her gallery of characters, to convey beautiful emotions. The young woman in this portrait might as well be hovering over an idyllic sound… a graduate of the Louvre school, her work in the streets is evolving day by day. Artist to follow !
A cold typography, which jumps out at you, set against a disenchanted forest. Kouka Ntadi‘s hard-hitting work is committed, without appeal. The message is clear and precise at a time when people are panicking about their future in the face of inevitable global warming. Kouka‘s work with his Bantu warriors, which can be admired in Vitry-sur-Seine and elsewhere, is well known, but his attachment to the wealth represented by the forest is less well known. This black and white work contrasts with the other works in the tunnel, which reinforces the message, which I hope will be heard.
Street art can be engaged, contentious, and supportive, and this is precisely a paragraph that is sorely lacking in the exhibition on 60 years of urban art in Paris that is currently taking place at the Hôtel de Ville. I was therefore more than touched to see in this tunnel what constitutes the base of many urban artists. This work in support of Iranian women by Claks One and HeartCraft is a sad reminder of a dark reality, but it is also important. Important for a people who have fallen under the yoke of obscurantism and who put their lives at risk every day to regain some form of freedom. Important for us who are in a democratic comfort zone that, in the end, is always in danger.
Much lighter, this motorcyclist in “babouches” seems to have come straight out of the souk in Marrakech! Nothing surprising because the artist Mouad Aboulhana is Moroccan. He handles with dexterity stencil and brush and offers us a very lively result! His background, like a wall of zelliges, is marked with smiley faces, which makes us smile at first sight, and the shimmering colours of his brushwork immediately make us want to travel. The artist, visiting Paris, has put up other works in the capital! It’s up to you to discover them.
One thing is for sure, this tunnel offers a lot of surprises! The last time I saw Shreed16‘s lettering was on a mural in support of the yellow jackets in the north of Paris. So to find his ultra-stylish writing surrounding the hopeful face created by the young graphic designer and graffiti artist MACA, was more than surprising. Two generations of graffiti artists come together for a four-handed work that jumps out at you. It is these works that give the tunnel its interest, its freshness and its perpetual renewal.
“Smile, you are being filmed!” The camera pigeons of the artist Djalouz are everywhere in the tunnel, but also in Paris! An open criticism of the surveillance society we live in, coupled with a criticism of the surveillance that is carried out via social networks. You won’t miss the logos of Twitter and Instagram given as seeds to the birds! A wind of freedom blows inside this tunnel… Let’s hope it lasts!
Old style graffiti can be found all over the tunnel. Lovers of beautiful blazes will not be disappointed. Block letters, bubble letters, dropping, flops and tags represent at least 40% of the painted surface! I chose this photo because the face made by the German graffiti artist and singer Emesa_amze reminded me of those faces found in the United States or in London. It has something very glossy, rock, glamorous and manga at the same time!
If you’ve been reading me for a while, you already know that I have a soft spot for characters. These are the funny characters that sometimes become the unique signature of an urban artist. Some artists create only one character in their career and use it in the urban landscape. Others, like Mr Hobz, have several characters to their credit and they make them reappear here and there depending on the location 😉 The tunnel is full of these characters! I chose Hobz‘s character simply because the tunnel, once night falls, is also a sleeping place for a number of homeless people. And I didn’t want to forget the inhabitants of this place in transformation.
Will the Tuileries Tunnel become as legendary as the Leake Street Tunnel in London?
This place full of creativity and freedom has become in a few months an essential spot for all urban art lovers! The city of Paris states on its website that the tunnel will remain a place of expression until the summer of 2023! But sincerely, between us, the City of Paris has perhaps not yet realized the enormous appeal of this tunnel, or even what it brings to a city at the end of its rope. We must dare to hope that the project will continue beyond and well after the 2024 Olympics; because yes, this tunnel, because of its location, could become a cult in the years to come. As important to see as the Eiffel Tower or the Mona Lisa! The Leake Tunnel in London now has a serious competitor 😉
I warmly advise you to go there and savour this taste of freedom. If by any chance you only come to Paris to taste urban art and you like the vibe of free places, you should not miss Aubervilliers, on the side of the canal de L’Ourcq or on the other side of the Seine; at Spot 13 or at the Butte aux Cailles.
I leave you with the reportage I made inside the tunnel. You can see the immensity of the place and its richness. I’m sure that after watching it, you’ll have only one desire, to go there!
I’m off to new Street Art adventures and of course, if you liked it, share it, the more the noise of the tunnel will be heard the longer it will last!
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