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Public art: From rock carving to Street Art

Public art or art in public spaces dates a long way back in human history. Through time people has shown the same need to express themselves, and public art has also been well used as a tool for spreading political messages. Today everyone with access to internet can easily spread political views, stand up against power, and use social media to share and exchange opinions or their own creations. And the number of artists increases alongside the number of ways for people to share their art.

Art in the public room can be seen as the ultimate example of including art, as opposed to inclusive art behind closed doors only known for, or accessible to certain crowds or viewers. Public art reduces the limits drastically of who has access to art, who it reaches, as well as who is allowed to create or define themselves as an artist. And maybe art in public also invites the viewer to express themselves in a wider, more extensive way in comparison to more traditional places where art is presented.

Art ? Avez-vous quelque chose a declarer / Art ? Do you have something to declare

Centre Pompidou, Paris


Rock carving Studies show that our ancestors who lived during the Bronze Age (1800-500 B.C.) have undeniable similarities with today's people when it comes to appearance, intellect, and cultural needs. Just like us, they had their dreams, fantasies, music idols, and narrators.

Even thousands of years ago appearance and aesthetics seem to have been important. On rock carvings, details and physical appearances were highlighted as to show status through beauty. To give one example, on rock carvings in Tantum in Bohuslan, Sweden, the characters calfs were emphasized by the artist.

Through the rock carvings our ancestors expressed their thoughts, culture and told stories about their lives. But not only did they did communicate with each other, they are also able to communicate with us by leaving an artistic, historic and anthropological mark in history.

Rock carvings in Tanum, in the north of Bohuslän, Sweden


Poster art Posters have for long been used to spread information and advertisement. When color printing was refined and the lithography born, and when mass production became possible in the later half of the 19th century, not only advertisers used the posters as their platforms in public spaces, but also artists. Artists like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Jules Chéret, Eugène Grasset, Adolphe Willette, Pierre Bonnard, Louis Anguetin, Georges de Feure and Henri-Gabriel Ibels were seen in the streets as well as styles from Art Nouveau, Symbolism, Cubism, Art Deco and Bauhaus. The techniques and art developed and spread, turning the streets in Paris into mini public galleries. In the late 1800s poster art was a serious art form, and advertisement posters became a special type of graphic art in the modern age.

Poster by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec


Propaganda art

Art in public spaces has also been used as political and propaganda tools to persuade, encourage and spread political opinions. Famous examples come from the World War Two, the IRA as well as the Soviet Union, or closer in time - the famous "Hope" poster of Barrack Obama by Shepard Fairey.

Through time countless regents have used propaganda to flatter themselves and discredit their enemies through speech, art, literature and posters, reaching the masses. One famous example is the Emperor Napoleon who took help from the artist Jacques David to portrait Napoleon in a specific and well thought out manner that became the Emperor's trademark.

IRA Northern Ireland propaganda

"Hope" poster of Barrack Obama by Shepard Fairey


Street art Graffiti and Street art evolved in New York in the 80s as an art form outside of the institutions, a social expression and voice of the young. Street art has revolutionized and questioned how art is made, by who, and in particular where it is shown. Public areas is the home of Street art hence the name.

In the 90s Street art made the trip over to Paris where it was easier and more excepted for the artists to create in public areas. Since then street art has evolved all over the world and it has had a remarkable journey in France as an accepted art form not only in the streets but in museums as well as in galleries.

Some of the first generation French street artists who represent French street art and it's artistic evolution are L'ATLAS, Lahcen Khedim, LMDLDZR_ZeeR, Yassine "YAZE" Mekhnache, Sylvain Ristori (Sambre), Jonas SUN7 and TANC, who are part of our ongoing exhibition STREET ART.

Jonas "SUN7"

L'ATLAS at Centre Pompidou, Paris

TANC in Hongkong

Some of the most recent murals and public art pieces by our artists can be found in Marseille. While the highway is under construction Street art has began to cover the walls alongside the road. Night time our artists L'ATLAS and LMDLDZR_ZeeR have worked on their murals next to the highway protected by helmets and fluorescent vests. A mural highway landscape is raising up in the middle of the cement.

See a sneak peak here (start at 4.50):

Mural on a bridge in Marseille by LMDLDZR_ZeeR

What's next?

With today's advanced ways of communicating visually through digital media, social media and with endless techniques for expression, one can wonder what today's Street art will tell future generations about our time, and what the next form of public art will look like.

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