The numbers are astounding: 105 artists, 9 floors, 36 apartments, 30,000 visitors.
That is how much time street art enthusiast Spencer Elzey had to himself inside the largest gallery of street artists and graffiti artists ever assembled specifically to transform a building for a public show. As he looked out a window to see the snaking lines of Parisians and tourists restlessly waiting to get in, he couldn't believe his luck to be able to walk through the exhibit by himself and get off some clear shots before the throng hit.
"The 'La Tour Paris 13' experience was something that I'll never forget," Elzey recounts as he thinks of himself nearly running from apartment to apartment with camera in hand, each room a new discovery, many of them inspiring awe.
"I was on an adrenaline rush while I was inside since I only had an hour by myself before it opened to the public. It wasn't until later in the morning when I looked back at all of my pictures that I was able to fully understand exactly how much art I just witnessed," he says.
Mehdi Ben Cheikh from Galerie Itinerrance, who curated the project "La Tour Paris 13," gave permission to Elzey to get these shots for BSA before the crowds arrived and now he was snapping as many as possible.
Over the course of the year artists have devised specific paintings, sculptures, and installations inside the housing tower knowing that it would be exhibited for a month before the building was demolished. "The number of artists and the amount of space dedicated to this one exhibit is something that I don't think will ever again be replicated," he says.
While touring former living rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens, Elzey quickly discovered that aerosol and markers were not the only materials used by this global pool of street/graffiti/urban artists who came from far places like Brazil, Iran, US, Tunisia, and even Saudi Arabia in addition to many European countries.
Some artists had staged new perspectives and environments by combining sculptural elements that married into their wall pieces, others like C215 cut into the floorboards to create a relief, others worked in and around the decaying, partially destroyed infrastructure to create venues that slid into the fantasies of subconscious. "It was a free-for-all in a sense that once inside the apartment the artist had free reign to transform it however they wanted," he says.
"What isn't apparent in the pictures is how dark a lot of the rooms were. There were at least three rooms that were essentially dark with the exception of a little black light, while others were dimly lit by a solo lamp or fluorescent bulb. Sometimes you had to walk through holes in the walls to access further rooms."
In his images here you can see the variety of styles and influences that the artists brought to the game, each accepting that it was a one-time-only installation. Maybe this group wasn't so hard to convince, since the very nature of art on the streets is ephemeral.
"Art on the street has an expiration date, but the exact amount of time in which it will stay up isn't known," says Elzey, "It can either be covered up by graffiti or another wheat paste, it can be removed by the building owner, or it can just wither away from being exposed to the elements."
"La Tour Paris 13" brings to mind the multitude of urban explorers who regularly trek into abandoned and neglected places all over the world and leave their mark, activating previously moribund spaces with art, but no one has ever launched a show like this with such genuine quality or with this scope.
"The closest thing that I can compare it to is 5 Pointz," Elzey says of the grouping of buildings in New Yorks' Long Island City that provided what was perhaps the original group show venue for urban art from the 1990s until yesterday. In an ironic mirroring of events, 5 Pointz and its multitude of external paintings underwent "the buff" the night before last after running an ever-changing show for about three decades.
The 5 Pointz factory buildings themselves are also slated for demolition and will make way for new condos. "We all knew that its days were extremely numbered," he says sadly of what had become a New York cultural heritage icon to some and a holy place for graffiti writers and street artists and fans from around the world.
The true impact from the "La Tour Paris 13" project and 5 Pointz may happen in the mind and heart of the artist and the art fan. Perhaps the beauty of this exercise, however short lived, is that the public is being encouraged to reimagine old buildings for new uses, to consider what else we can do with private and public space.
When that conversation takes place we often realize how the limits of creativity are determined in no small part by imagination.
While we keep tracking the routes and machinations of this first global people's art movement that has evolved into street art, we fully expect that we will continue to be surprised and inspired by the creative spirit and by artists.
For Spencer, this tour was a lot more personal. "Having experienced something like this on such an immense scale and with a definitive end date made me feel like I was part of something special."
Visit the "La Tour Paris 13" site for a full set of photographs, details and a full experience of the project.
Artists participating include: 108 ( Italy) - 2mil (Brazil) - Add Fuel ( Portugal) - AGL ( France ) - Lacurci Agostino (Italy) - Alexone ( France ) - A1one (Iran) - Amin ( France ) - Aous (Saudi Arabia) - awer (Italy) - Azooz (Saudi Arabia) - Belem (Portugal) - BOM.K ( France ) - Btoy (Spain) - C215 ( France ) - Celeste Java ( France ) - Cope2 (USA) - Corleone (Portugal ) - Dabro (Tunisia) - Dado (Italy) - Dan23 ( France ) - David Walker (UK) - Eime (Portugal) - eL Seed ( Tunisia) - Ethos (Brazil) - Etnik (Italy) - Fenx ( France ) - Flip (Brazil) - Gael ( France ) - Gilbert ( France ) - Guy Denning (UK) - Herbert Baglione (Brazil) - Hogre (Italy) - Hopnn (Italy) - Indie 184 (USA) - Inti Ansa ( France ) - Inti Castro (Chile) - Jaz (Argentina) - JB Rock ( Italy) - Jimmy C ( Australia) - Samina Joao (Portugal) - Jonone (USA) - Joys (Italy) - Julien Colombier ( France ) - Kan ( France ) - Katre ( France ) - Kruella (Portugal) - Legz ( France ) - Lek ( France ) - Liliwenn ( France ) - Loyola (Brazil) - Ludo ( France ) - Mrs. Sanbor ( France ) - March (Portugal) - Marko93 ( France ) , Mario Belem (Portugal) - Maryam (Saudi Arabia) - Mateo Garcia Leon ( France ) - Maz (Saudi Arabia) - moneyless (Italy) - Mosko ( France ) - Mp5 (Italy) - Myra ( France ) - Nano (Chile) - Nebay ( France ) - Nemi Uhu ( France ) - Nilko ( France ) - Orticanoodles (Italy) - PANTONIO (Portugal) - Paulo Arraiano (Portugal) - Peeta (Italy) - Philippe Baudelocque ( France ) - Rapto (Brazil) - Rea 1 ( France ) - Rodolphe Cintorino ( France ) - Roti ( France ) - Sambre ( France ) - Sean Hart ( France ) - Sebastien Preschoux ( France ) - Senso (Italy) - Seth ( France ) - Shaka ( France ) - Shoof (Tunisia) - Shuck2 ( France ) - Sowat ( France ) - Spazm ( France ) - Speto (Brazil) - Stew ( France ) - Stinkfish (Mexico) - Sumo (Luxembourg) - Tellas (Italy) - Tinho (Brazil) - Tore ( France ) -Uno ( France ) - Uriginal (Spain) - Vexta (Australia) - Vhils (Portugal) - / Maismenos (Portugal).
This article is also posted on Brooklyn Street Art.
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