Free Paris Walks

Walk 3: Street Art
The Paris Cityscape as an Open-Air Gallery
http://www.invisibleparis.net - http://www.freepariswalks.com
New edition: updated November 2011
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Walk 3 Theme: Street Art
What is street art? This term sometimes seems rather pretentious, particularly when we see
just the negative aspects of indiscriminate tagging, but the creations highlighted along this
walk can in my opinion be classified as genuine works of art in an urban environment. I have
tried to include the widest range of creations possible, including stencils, sculptures, wall
paintings and graffiti. Some items were commissioned and are permanent, whilst others can
be considered illegal and are by definition extremely temporary. Others are by artists that
have become so well-known that the city authorities would now not dare to remove them.
Paris is home to some of the most important and influential artists working in the genre,
even if many have now moved onto other destinations or other supports. I have tried to
include some of the better known artists in this walk, but in the interests of covering a
manageable distance and because the creations of certain artists are not currently visible,
this has not always been possible. To remedy this situation, I have created a Who’s Who of
Paris Street Art section at the end of this document with tips on where to see the artists who
are not featured as well as links to their websites.
I have decided to focus on just one part of the city; the streets around Menilmontant and
Belleville. This ancient part of the city is so rich in creations that even within such a small
sector I could easily have drawn several other routes. If you have time therefore, do not
hesitate to wander off the scheduled route.
Although this walk can be done at any time, my favourite moment is on a Sunday morning.
The streets are quiet, and you can get great pasteis de nata cakes at the market on the Rue
des Pyrénées half-way down!

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Map of the Walk
The map provided in this guide is courtesy of Google and as such is rather limited. I have
added the route and the location of the principal points mentioned but I do recommend that
you use a more detailed map of your own to ensure that you do not get lost! This is
particularly important on this walk which includes small streets, narrow lanes and staircases!


O Rue du Télégraph O Rue des Cascades
O Rue de la Duée O Parc de Belleville
O Square des Saint Simoniens O Place Fréhel
O Pavillon Carré de Baudoin O La Forge/La Kommune
O Villa de l’Ermitage G Rue Dénoyez










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Rue du Télégraph
C This walk begins at the Télégraph Metro station. After exiting the Metro station, take
the Rue du Télégraph.
As you come out of the Metro, you will
probably not be aware that you are at what is
marked as the highest point in Paris (the sign
is next to the cemetery entrance). The good
news is that the walk is all downhill from here!
On the left-hand side of the Rue du Télégraph
you will see the Cimitière de Belleville, which is
not especially of interest, and large twin water
towers. The significance of this area though -
and the reason for its name - is the fact that
its altitude made it an ideal spot for some of
the world’s first telegraph communications.
Look at the attractive art nouveau styled
building on your right-hand side (number 33)
and you will see the first creation on this walk,
the white figures of Jerome Mesnager - an
artist we will see much more of later on.
The building is known as the Crèche Laique de
St Fargeau, and was one of the early secular
nurseries. It has recently bee renovated, but
Mesnager’s creation survived!

Rue de la Duée
C Turn right onto the Rue du Borrégo, then follow it on to the Rue de la Duée. This short
street has a rich collection of murals.
What is immediately striking about this street are the
architectural contrasts. There are old houses with
tree-filled gardens, modern builds and high-rises
from the 60s and 70s. In this respect, the creations
of Nemo, Mesnager and Mosko et Associés along this
street give it a certain feeling of homogeneity.
Nemo’s shadowy figure can be seen on a wall on the
left-hand side as you descend, shortly followed by
the savannah influences of Mosko et Associés
decorating a very run-down and perhaps soon to be
demolished structure. Mesnager’s white figures can
be seen on the right-hand side, dancing around a
more recent wood and concrete construction.
Mesnager’s figures also lead the way towards what
remains of the Passage de la Duée, arguably the
narrowest street in Paris (with a width of only
approximately 80cm at some points).
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Square des Saint-Simoniens
At the end of the street on the left you will see the overhanging branches of a cherry tree
protruding from a small and often very quiet park. This garden was made from land which
belonged to a follower of an interesting but short-lived cult known as the Saint Simoniens.
The cult existed here only from 1825-32, but their beliefs in such things as the abolition of
privileges and the equality of men and women meant that their influence lived on long
afterwards, some say up until the creation of socialism. A sculpture by the artist Radecker
can be seen in the gardens today.

Le Pavillon Carré de Baudouin

C Take the Rue Pixérécourt and follow it to the intersection with the Rue Menilmontant.
Turn right onto this street where you will shortly arrive at a crossroads with the Rue des
Pyrénées. The Pavillon Carré de Baudouin is the white building opposite you, but the
entrance is a little further down the Rue de Menilmontant.
The Pavillon Carré de Baudoin is an interesting structure and one of the only remaining
remnants of a time when this area was filled with the country houses of rich Parisians. This
particular house once belonged to the Goncourt family, who were noted writers in the 19
th

century.
However, it is featured in this walk because its external wall is an ever-changing canvas of
street art creations (there are more opposite and to the rear, although these are less
‘official’!).
The building and gardens are also worth exploring, especially as there are often interesting
exhibitions in the Pavillon, and entrance is always free.

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Villa de l’Ermitage
C Come out of the house and retrace your
steps to the crossroads with the Rue des
Pyrenées, then turn left along this street.
After about 50 metres, turn left into the
somewhat tricky to spot Villa de l’Ermitage.
Before setting off down the Villa de
l’Ermitage, note the small but very attractive
communal garden called the Leroy Séme
Jardin Partagé. It is possible to enter and
wonder at this reclaimed corner of the city
which is today blooming with blackcurrant
bushes and colourful flowerbeds.
The bucolic atmosphere continues along the
Villa de l’Ermitage, a passageway that is
bordered by large houses, mature trees and
patches of hollyhocks and rose bushes. Many
of these properties are inhabited by artists,
and they have made a joint effort to decorate
the street with their creations.
At the end of this passage used to stand an
old theatre that had been given over to
graffiti artist, but this has now been
demolished.


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Rue des Cascades

C Follow the Rue de l’Ermitage until you see the sign above (featuring a Space Invader),
then take the staircase on your left down to the Rue des Cascades.
As you arrive at the bottom of the stairs (via a passageway
that is also frequently used as a support by street artists)
you are immediately confronted by a rather ancient looking
stone construction. This is something that was known as a
‘regard’, and was an access point down to an aqueduct
below. The name of the street is also a reminder that one
of the major purposes of this area was to assist with the
provision of water down to the city of Paris.
On a corner of the Rue des Cascades and the Rue de
Savies opposite the Fontaine d’Henri IV bar you can see
some rather haunting figures carved into the wall. This
unsigned (and probable group) creation is reminiscent of
primitive art and would not look out of place on the walls
of an ancient cave.
Further along (at number 70) you will see a building with
one entire wall painted as a trompe l’oeil. This creation also
features one of Mesnager’s figures.

Parc de Belleville
C At the end of the Rue des Cascades you arrive at a
roundabout. Take the Rue des Envierges which is the
third street on your left.
There is little to see along this non-descript street, but
a nice surprise awaits you at the end of it.
Before you get there though, note the Villa Faucher on
the right-hand side. This was the home of a young
anarchist called Emile Henry who was executed aged
only 21 after being found guilty of two explosions that
killed several people. At his trial, Henry - something of
a wayward intellectual - showed a great propensity
towards the kinds of enigmatic slogans that have
influenced many street artists, saying notably ‘il n’y a
pas d’innocents’. Perhaps because of this association,
the wall at the entrance to this Villa is regularly
covered with artistic creations.
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At the end of street, the surprise – one of the best viewpoints of Paris! Stop for a drink at
the terrace of the cafe, surely one of the best positioned terraces in the city, or just look out
across the city from the construction above the Parc de Belleville. This well-positioned
structure is also a regular target for artists wanting to make a name for themselves.

Place Fréhel

C Continue down the Rue Piat until you reach the Rue de Belleville then turn left. At the
intersection with the Rue Jouy Rouve you will see another Space Invader. From here
advance another 20 metres or so until you reach the Place Fréhel.
This ‘square’ is in fact the result of problems that arose when the line 11 of the Metro was
being built. Buildings stretching around this corner site had to be demolished, and the
resulting space was left vacant. It is used today mostly as a parking zone for motorbikes, but
it also features two monumental pieces of urban art.
On the left-hand side is a large physical installation by Ben of two workmen attempting to
put a sign in place. The sign reads ‘Il faut se méfier des mots’, which can be translated as
‘beware of words’. Suitably enough, a bar (called Culture Rapide) which features regular
slam poetry sessions has moved into the unit beneath this sign.
On the right-hand side, a more classical painting by the artist Jean Le Gac features a
detective investigating clues. Le Gac is a pioneer of ‘narrative art’ or ‘a painter of fiction’ as
he likes to describe himself. A message on the creation reads ‘Habitué au style allusif du
peintre, le jeune détective comprit que le message lui indiquait de continuer la poursuite par
la rue Julien-Lacroix’ (Being used to the allusive style of the painter, the young detective
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understood that the message was telling him to continue his hunt along the Rue Julien
Lacroix). A good message because that is the way we are going too!
Between the two permanent installations there is constant series of creations that rarely last
longer than a week or two. Near the detectives foot, you may also spot two space invaders.
La Forge/La Kommune

C Take the rue Julien Lacroix and follow it until the intersection with the Rue Ramponeau
on your right. Take this street and continue down the hill.
You will pass by one of the best Thai restaurants in Paris called Krung Thep, although from
the outside it looks little more than a dingy, Belleville bar. The food is so good that the staff
can afford to be fantastically unfriendly and yet still see the restaurant filled each night!
The Rue Ramponeau is an interesting snapshot of Belleville. On your left are the
constructions of the 1980s, with buildings by architectural stars such as Frédéric Borel and
Alain Sarfati, offering a vision of what the whole of Belleville could have been like (a
wholesale demolition project was planned). On the right-hand side are the type of buildings
that the local residents fought to preserve. Chief amongst these sites is a rectangle of patchy
scrubland and an old converted key factory known either as La Forge or La Kommune.
In 1991 the site was earmarked for transformation into a small shopping centre before a
group of artists decided to squat the building and eventually force the city council into a
rethink. The artists were given permission to stay, and have now spent nearly 20 years here
as legal rent-paying residents. Their studios are in the hidden walls of the old factory to the
rear of the site, but it is the garden area that is more visible, with huge creations covering
the walls on either side of this space.
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Recently the artists were nearly evicted, partly because the city council felt that they were
not doing enough work in the community. As a result they changed their name, but it is still
unlikely that you will have access to their studios or see any of their creations as you pass
by. Visits are only organised generally once or twice a year.
The Rue Dénoyez

C Continue down the Rue Ramponeau, then take the Rue Dénoyez on your right.
This small street has recently been semi-pedestrianised after a new swimming pool complex
was built (which is interesting in itself – Dénoyez sounds like ‘the drowned’ in French!), and
has become a very pleasant location with tables and chairs spilling out from restaurants and
cafés. However, before construction started it was a run-down backstreet of squats and
zero-star hotels, and was left free for graffiti artists to do as they pleased. Fortunately, the
artists organised themselves into a group called Frichez Nous la Paix, and worked together to
schedule the creations. As a result, the large-scale high-quality productions and constant
buzz of activity have turned this street into a lively open-air art gallery. Attracted by the
attention this road has garnered, other artists working with other forms have begun to
appear, and the entire street is now an ever-changing canvas of creations.
As you turn into the street you will notice an abandoned building on the corner with a row of
Kouka’s African tribesmen standing guard. This building was an old ‘relais de la poste’, and
was positioned just outside the city walls and gateway (which was situated where the
Belleville Metro station is now). This was at once a kind of stables, an auberge and a place
for hungry travellers to eat.
The bright-yellow construction on the right of the street is the new swimming pool complex,
and the first restaurants and cafés you see here are the survivors from an early era being
given a new lease of life, recalling a time when this street was a place where people came to
drink and dance. Whilst Paris struggled under high taxation, the prices of drinks at this tax-
free location just outside the city walls ensured that the venues were always full. Mr
Dénoyez owned a tavern here, just alongside another famous venue, the Ramponeau
caberet, hence the names of the streets.
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Further along the street, the multi-coloured façades are the previous artist squats and are
now becoming respectable galleries. At the end of the street on the left-hand side is the now
famous graffiti covered wall.
The end of the walk - and other suggestions!

C Follow the Rue Dénoyez back on to the Rue de Belleville. On the corner you will find
the popular Aux Folies bar where you can stop for a drink and watch artists work on the
Dénoyez wall.
Before taking a seat though, come out on to the Rue de Belleville and look above the Ed
supermarket and Chinese fast-food joint. You will see a clever creation by 1984. Is it a
painting with relief, or is it actually a three-dimensional object? I will let you discover for
yourselves. Some may consider this to be vandalism, but the greater crime was surely letting
this historical building, once the famous Folies caberet bar and cinema, be turned into a
supermarket (and chinese take-away).
If you wish to continue the walk and see some more street art follow this short itinerary:
• Cross the road and look at the bottom of the fence on the corner of the Rue de
Belleville and the Boulevard de La Villette. You will see a whole series of little Space
Invaders.
• Continue down the Rue du Faubourg du Temple opposite and look up to your right.
You will see at least two of M Chat’s felines. Continue further down and you will see
(next to a shop selling lingerie) a wall which features an organised rolling series of
creations.
• Walk a little further along the Rue du Faubourg du Temple then turn left onto the
Rue St Maur. Continue until you reach the Rue Oberkampf. On your left you will see
the Le M.U.R installation. This large, naked wall on the side of the popular Café
Charbon was regularly used as a canvas for street artists, and it was decided recently
to make it an official space and let an association take charge of what is displayed
there. A constantly changing selection of creations is now visible year-round at this
spot.
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Paris Street Artists: A Who’s Who
This selection is non-exhaustive and deals mainly with the artists whose work is the most
recognisable and easy to spot in the city. It is interesting to note that many have a web
presence today, and URLs are displayed below when available.
If anybody knows of any deserving artists that I have left out, please let me know
(adam@invisibleparis.net) and I will try to add them to a future edition of this document.
1984

The Orwellian-inspired creation is simple and distinctive, but
the artists behind it are rather more discreet. You can see
these four figures at various points around the city, generally
high up on buildings, a reminder that wherever we are in the
street, we are always being watched.
The crew behind this message is an 8 person collective.
http://www.maquis-art.com/_crew.php?id=905

L’Atlas

L’Atlas is the nom de plume of an artist fascinated by all forms
of calligraphy. Working mostly with Arabic forms, L’Atlas also
uses gaffer tape to create compasses which he sticks around
the city, emphasising his desire to be seen as a traveller
across continents and civilisations. The artist is also interested
in labyrinths, and even his signature can be seen as a difficult
to penetrate maze. His studio is in the La Forge building.
http://www.latlas.net/

Ben

Ben is not truly a street artist, but I mention him here because
of his creation on the Rue de Belleville which is featured in this
walk.
It could also be argued that his use of written slogans in his
creations is very reminiscent of street art, but it should be
noted that Ben has been using this form since the 1960s!
http://www.ben-vautier.com/

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Blek le Rat

One of the most influential of all Parisian street artists, and the
originator of the pre-created stencil form. His creations are
mostly life-size human figures, first painted in a studio then
later wheatpasted onto walls. As his creations are by nature
temporary, there are no places in Paris that you will be
guaranteed to see one.
He has famously been a huge influence on Banksy who said of
him “Every time I think I’ve painted something original, I find
out that Blek le Rat has done it as well, only 20 years earlier.”
http://blekmyvibe.free.fr/
Bonom

Nicknamed the Belgian Banksy, Bonom creates monumental
figures of animals, skeletons and fossils. These creations can
sometimes be up to 15-20 metres long and can be seen
running across walls, up the bare stone sides of an apartment
building or painted provocatively on church steeples.
His creations are a fairly recent arrival in Paris and you will be
more likely to come across his art in Brussels.
http://www.flickr.com/groups/bonom/pool

Jef Aerosol

A slightly mysterious character with three different
professions; artist, musician and…English teacher!
Very much influenced by music, with a background in punk
and rock music, his stencils are reflections of album covers
with slogans coming directly from the lyrics of his favourite
artists. His creations are always clearly labelled, and almost
always feature a human figure and a red arrow.
Like Miss’Tic, Jeff Aerosol is more of a left-bank artist. None of
his creations are featured on this walk, but you should find
some around the Moufftard or la Butte aux Cailles.
http://jefaerosol.free.fr/
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Jérôme Mesnager

Mesnager is responsible for one of the most immediately
recognisable figures on the Paris cityscape – the white
silhouette of a man climbing, jumping and dancing. This hand-
painted character first appeared on the outskirts of the city in
1983, and has since become the unofficial figure of the
Menilmontant district of the city. Mesnager has also taken him
to other cities across four continents, and he also appears on
more mainstream canvas creations.
http://mesnagerjerome.free.fr/
Kouka

One of the younger generation of street artists in the city (and
also a rapper), Kouka produces wheatpasted African figures.
These life-size figures can be seen at many points along the
route of this walk, standing guard above shop fronts or on
street corners.
An exhibition of his paintings is being held at Frichez Nous la
Paix (22 bis rue Dénoyez) until the end of August.
M CHAT

Franco-Swiss artist Thoma Vuille hit gold with his cheeky cat
creation, a feline painted in bright orange with a huge smile
and always positioned in seemingly impossible places.
The cat originated in Paris, but has become famous worldwide
and Vuille is now an artist very much in demand.
http://www.monsieurchat.eu/
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Miss’Tic

Rive Gauche Parisian figure par excellence, Miss’Tics’s stencils
almost always feature a female figure, a play on words and
her distinctive signature.
She is perhaps the most business savvy of all street artists,
and is regularly featured in exclusive art galleries around the
city. Her figures can now even be seen on the sides of rental
trucks!
To see some of her creations, try the streets of the 5
th
and
13
th
arrondissements.
http://www.missticinparis.com/
Mosko et associés

Mosko et associés is actually a two-artist collective who began
decorating the walls of the city at the end of the 1980s.
Known above all for their stencils of African animals, they
were initially linked with the Moskowa district of the18th
arrondissement (hence their chosen name). Their motto is “on
veut du beau, de la gaieté, de la vie, là où il y a du laid” (we
want beauty, happiness and life where there is just ugliness).
http://www.moskoetassocies.fr/
Nemo

One of the earliest street artists in Paris, Nemo (who works
mostly with stencils) first decorated a wall in the city in the
early 1980s. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that he found
the figure that would make his name in the city – the shadowy
figure in a raincoat. This figure is rarely seen anywhere else
than in the street, and it is not surprising that this very
discreet artist does not have a website.
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Nice Art

A collective of artists who have been working together since
1986, Nice Art creations are mostly stencils of musicians,
artists and writers. Recently they have also begun to stick
decorated vinyl records to walls, continuing the music theme.
Although one of several different artists may be responsible
for the creation, each one is signed with the same logo.
http://www.nice-art.net/
Space Invader

In a similar manner to English contemporary Banksy, Invader,
or Space Invader works in strict anonymity. He (or she?) first
cemented a space invader mosaic to a wall in Paris in the mid-
90s and since then, the computer game characters have
begun a worldwide invasion.
The artist considers the project to be similar to hacking in that
it constitutes an invasion of a defined area. Each installation is
carefully photographed, logged on a database and placed on a
map, thus ensuring a trace is kept whenever an item is
removed by the authorities. As the symbol is a very easy to
one to reproduce there are of course numerous unofficial
copies around the world!
http://www.space-invaders.com/
Tian

Tian is a self-proclaimed ‘self-taught artist/autist’. Very much
influenced by Blek le Rat, Tian produces life-size stencils of
people, including soul singers, boxers and native Americans.
http://www.tian.fr
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Zoo Project

One of the youngest ‘recognised’ artists working in the city
today, Zoo Project creates monumental posters of strange,
often monochrome creatures.
He works mostly in this quarter of Paris, and it is not clear
how he manages to transport and then paste such large
creations without attracting attention from the authorities!
You may also see some tags referring to Belleville Zoo on this
walk. This has nothing to do with this artist but is simply the
name that kids living in the area have given to their district. In
some respects it is strangely apt – are we the visitors or the
animals though?