Changing the World, One Poster at a Time

Elusive and semi-anonymous French artist JR claims he has the largest art gallery in the world… that’s because he’s plastering the whole planet with his inspiring wheat-pasted portraits. On display for anyone to experience, whether museum goer or not, his subversive larger than life images have recently captured the eye of TED Talks staff as well: they have honored him with the much coveted selection as an annual TED Prize winner.

Getting his artistic start using a spray-can to tag his name around the streets and rooftops of Paris, his work quickly evolved when he found a camera on the subway and started documenting he and his friends exploits. His work further progressed when he pulled out his camera and a fish-eye lens (the only one available at the time) to document suburban “thugs” from Paris’ notorious banlieues. Later illegally debuting the huge portraits on the walls of the bourgeois districts of Paris, “Portrait of a Generation,” soon became official when Paris’ City Hall wrapped its own building in his photos.

In 2007 he produced his second project, “Face 2 Face,” which some consider the largest illegal photo exhibition of all time. Together with a grassroots team of community members he posted towering portraits of Israelis and Palestinians in eight Palestinian and Israeli cities and on both sides of the security fence/separation barrier. Each face in the series was paired with another face from the opposite side of the fence, yet sharing the same roll or career in life. When asked to identify each faces nationality, most observers were, somewhat uncomfortably, unable to give an answer.

JR’s most recent project, “Women Are Heroes,” depicts women “dealing with the effects of war, poverty, violence, and oppression” from cities around the world. He and his friends traveled to Rio de Janeiro, Phnom Penh, Delhi and several African cities collecting stories and creating art together with the various community members in celebration of these inspiring women. As with all TED prize winners, JR was asked to make a wish, his: to use art to turn the world inside out. You can find out more ways to make this happen at the Inside Out Project.

Below: a trailer for the companion documentary to “Women are Hero’s”

A portrait of the artist himself: JR in his trademark horn-rimed glasses.

Thanks for the hat tip Deepak!

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