JR: Not an artist, just a tool – FINISHED!!

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Reviewed on 12/3/2011 | No Reviews

He’s only known by his initials and he owns the biggest art gallery in the world: French artist JR shows his photos on the streets of Paris, in the slums of Nairobi and on the walls of the Middle East. Now, for the very first time, the street artist dares to exhibit in a gallery. And it’s not just anyone, it’s THE gallery: Emmanuel Perrotin is showing Encrages.

Having a look into the courtyard of Emmanuel Perrotin in the Marais district is an intriguing thing to do right now: there is a huge eye gazing at you. The wall of the Parisian mansion that houses the famous gallery is actually entirely covered by a photo. That’s how he made himself known: JR creates monumental photographs of people that he pastes around the world, creating weird situations and a lot of questions.

Who is JR?

Exhibiting at Perrotin and being awarded with the famous TED prize this year (have a look at this instructive video) somehow marks the end of his more marginal approach to art. But in spite of the buzz (or because of it) he still does not reveal his identity.

Who the hell is this artist everybody is talking about? A young French guy, born in 1983, who started doing graffiti at the age of 17. When he then found a camera in the Paris subway, he began tacking pictures of his buddies, as he puts it: “I didn’t want to become a photographer”, he recently said in an interview in Paris Match magazine, “I just had the feeling of experiencing unbelievable things and I wanted to document them. I started doing photocopies of the prints and pasting them all over. I was 17. I had no concept, no career plan. It was a way to express myself.”

A new Cartier-Bresson

Meanwhile, his work has sold at Sotheby’s and a French art critic called him “the Cartier-Bresson of the 21st century”. Now the question is, does his work function in the closed space of a gallery? Are his photos still disturbing and “revealing humanity” as Le Monde put it? The answer is: as photos shown on walls they somehow lose their impact.

Print yourself

But there is one fascinating thing, that involves visitors of the exhibit  taking their self-portraits à la JR. The photo will be printed on large-scale paper and you can take it home. To do what, you might ask? Well, to paste it on a wall, somehow, somewhere, like JR used to, and then you can take a photo of your self-portrait and stream it on the website of the gallery. It’s fun and it somehow shows how much people like being involved in art. We love becoming part of it, part of something bigger then ourselves. Thanks JR!

JR – Encrages – Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin – UNTIL 7th January 2012
76, rue de Turenne
75003 Paris
Tel. 0033(1) 42 16 79 79
Métro: Saint-Sébastian Froissart 
Open Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 7pm
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