This large fresco painted onto one of the buildings is over 20 metres high and depicts some of the personnalities that were born or lived in Belleville. A couple such as Piaf and Maurice Chevalier are easily recognised, but the others are lost on me. Unfortunately I have been unable to find out who actually painted this and when.
Walking around Paris you can see these "Hommes blancs" or "Corps blancs", none more so than in the 20th district where Mesnager had his studio until a short while ago. Classed as an urban artist or a "pochoirist", which technically is false because the paintings are done free-hand, Mesnager created his design in 1983 and has gone on to paint them as far as the Great Wall of China. These are just some examples of his style.
Closest metros are Pelleport and Jourdain.
I recently uncovered an old long-forgotten photographic "gem" in one of my archive photo albums up in the loft of my house, dusted it off, and reproduced an interesting picture.
The French nation are inveterate consumers of alcohol, nothing wrong with this relaxing hobby of course, but the end result of a bibulous evening has to be disposed of, and in 1960's Paris, these "Pissoirs" were all part of the "street furniture", and strategically sited in locations around the city.
Unfortunately, as can be seen in the picture, the design of the Pissoir was only constructed to accommodate the male anatomy, essentially disguising the operational parts in the relief operation from public view............ just how "les Mademoiselles" were expected to cope with the body's physical requirements, I never quite figured out............
Being an impressionable teenager at the time, I did not possess the nerve to pursue my investigations in this sensitive area of cafe-conversation, even though I speak French quite well!
But in later years the secret was revealed, on a night drive through Marseilles......but that's another story from my misspent youth!..........
If like me you're passionate about street art, taking a walk in "rue Jeanne d'Arc" in the 13th arrondissement will be the best idea of your trip in paris !
You'll see 3 big frescos from 3 main artists :
1) Jana & JS’ photographers
As massive as SF’s fresco, This French-Austrian team has put two huge stencils (representing themselves) at the 117 of the same street. They bring us in their very urbanized world, reflecting Jeanne d’Arc street architecture, and catch our eyes taking pictures of us.
2) Vhils and his dynamite technics
It’s hard to believe, but Vhils (alias Alexandre Farto) makes portraits on the walls thanks to dynamite! This very special technics allows him to sculpt the wall, as you can see it on this video : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6FU1Fvn9Nk. If it’s still hard to believe, go to 177 rue du château des rentiers !
3) Shepard Fairey’s fresco
Shepard Fairey is one the biggest street artists in the US, thanks to his OBEY Giant project and thanks to his poster of Barack Obama with a “HOPE” written on it. He just achieved a giant fresco on a 40 meter high building at the 93 Jeanne d’Arc street. It's massive.
Then you can walk around and you'll probably find a few Space Invaders !
This huge painting of a detective, by Jean Le Gac (born 1936) is also on the wall of a building at Place Fréhel, Rue de Belleville.
"Accustomed to the allusive style of the painter, the young detective understands that the message tells him to continue the chase along the street Julien Lacroix."
This is the street that goes off to his right (our left) and leads up to Belleville Park.
Second photo: Place Fréhel was named after the singer and actress Marguerite Boulc'h (1891-1951), whose stage name was Fréhel. On the link below there is a tiny green square which you can click on (if you can find it) to hear Fréhel singing La Java bleue in 1938.
Métro Pyrénées, Belleville
GPS 48°52'23.18" North; 2°22'54.28" East
In 1993 the artist Ben Vautier (born 1935) created this work of urban art at Place Fréhel in Belleville.
It shows two workmen (actually life-size puppets) lowering a huge blackboard with the words "Il faut se méfier des mots" = Beware of Words.
This square, which could also be thought of as a vacant lot, came into being when some buildings had to be torn down during the construction of the tunnel for Métro line number 11 from Châtelet to Porte des Lilas in the 1930s.
Métro Pyrénées, Belleville
GPS 48°52'23.18" North; 2°22'54.28" East
Whether you agree with street art or not is a question of opinion, but until it became "tagged" it depicted the scenes of everyday life, a little naive perhaps, but certainly the artist put some work into the 50/60 metres of its length.. Those that don't like it will welcome the fact that it will soon be covered by a vegetal screen of 2m50 high. The local neighbourhood council decided this as the original artist refused to let his oeuvre be washed away, so thay came up with this idea.
Nearest metro is Rue des Boulets.
Off the Beaten Path in Plain Sight
• The department stores La Samaritaine, Galeries Lafayette and Printemps.
• The Métro stations Abbesses, Porte Dauphine and Place Sainte-Opportune.
• The Grand Palais.
How can these VERY public places be considered Off-the-Beaten Path?! ... for a not so obvious activity -- an Art Nouveau sightseeing tour.
Art Nouveau is a style of architecture and applied art that was popular during 1890–1910 and the places listed here are a few very easily-reached, notable examples of the style:
Métro Stations by Hector Guimard (1867–1942):
• Châtelet (1st arr. @ intersection of Rue des Halles and Place Sainte-Opportune)
• Abbesses (Line 12, 18th arr. at the foot of Montmartre)
• Porte Dauphine (Line 2, 16th arr. @ Av. Foch)
• Galeries Lafayette (Georges Chedanne & Ferdinand Chanut) in the 9th arr. @ Métro Chaussée d'Antin - La Fayette
• Printemps (René Binet) -- just down the boulevard from Galeries Lafayette near Métro Havre - Caumartin
• La Samaritaine (Frantz Jourdain) in the 1st arr. @ Métro Pont-Neuf
Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées (8th arr @ Métro Champs-Élysées – Clemenceau or Franklin D. Roosevelt) Architects: Henri Deglane, Albert Louvet, Albert Thomas and Charles Girault
This almost sinister looking public clock is located up a side street to the north of the Centre Pompidou, on rue Brantome. The "defender" apparently has hourly battles with the representations of air, water and earth although I'm not sure it was actually working when we were there. Interesting to see though
I came across this motto painted on the wall somewhere along rue St-Julien-le-Pauvre. I think it says:
Le chiffon fait le papier, le papier fait l'argent $
L'argent fait le banque, le banque fait le prêts €
Le prêt fait la mendiant, le mendiant fait des chiffons. ¥
Loosely translated or transliterally translated (thank God for Babelfish):
The rags make the paper, the paper makes the silver (money) $
The silver (money) makes bank, the bank makes the loans €
The loans make the beggar, the beggar makes the rags. ¥
And all with the appropriate money signs of the major power brokers of the world (U.S., Europe & Japan), but notice who they put first, either they're placing the U.S. first as having the most power or they're demonizing the U.S. the most, probably the latter. Very clever, I thought, very philosophical & very sage. I approve! I'm so glad I took the photo so that I could unravel the little mystery at home.
Please click on the photo to see the full Motto.
Photo: April 2003
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