Guerilla Art

Posted on October 20, 2010


The recent TED Prize winner is named “JR.”

JR creates “Pervasive Art” that spreads uninvited on buildings of Parisian slums, on walls in the Middle East, on broken bridges in Africa or in favelas in Brazil. People in the exhibit communities, those who often live with the bare minimum, discover something absolutely unnecessary but utterly wonderful. And they don’t just see it, they make it. Elderly women become models for a day; kids turn into artists for a week. In this art scene, there is no stage to separate the actors from the spectators.

Here is a brief CV listed in the email that was sent out:

  • In 2006, he launched Portrait of a Generation, huge-format portraits of the suburban “thugs” posted on the walls of the bourgeois districts of Paris. This illegal project became “official” when Paris City Hall wrapped its own building in JR’s photos.
  • In 2007, with Marco, he did Face 2 Face, the biggest illegal photo exhibition ever. JR posted huge portraits of Israelis and Palestinians face to face in eight Palestinian and Israeli cities, and on the both sides of the Security fence / Separation wall. Although experts said it was impossible, he did it.
  • He embarked on a long international trip in 2008 for his exhibition Women are Heroes, a project which underlines the dignity of women who are often the targets of conflicts. In 2010, the film “Women are Heroes” was presented at the Cannes Film Festival and received a long standing ovation.
  • JR is currently working on two projects: Wrinkles of the City, which questions the memory of a city and its inhabitants; and Unframed, which reinterprets famous photographs and photographers in new contexts. He is taking photos from museum archives and exposing them to the world, huge format photos on the walls of cities, creating free art exhibitions.

And then there was this amazing description of guerilla art:

Guerilla art is about provocation and pushing limits to start dialogue. It has the capacity to engage and break down barriers in ways art in galleries or museums does not. The audience is often those who are least likely to be exposed to art. When guerilla art is practiced as it is by JR, the work is not about him but about the community where it is placed — in subject, in execution, and in enjoyment.

Here are some links:

— VIA —

Will Durant has suggested that comedy is actually philosophy. I agree. Art is more than beauty and aesthetics. It’s social commentary. And perhaps, even more than that.

The shift of focus from the artist to the community is what I find so beautiful, and so powerful. Sacrifice, in other words, is not just good theology (nor should it stay there), it is good art (and leadership, and teaching, and …)