From Paris to the World: The Art of JR

JR is a French artist whose thought-provoking works of art are renowned internationally. Discover some of JR’s most creative art installations and what makes him such an engaging artist.

JR Street Art New York City

With a studio on each side of the Atlantic, French artist JR is becoming an international art sensation. His work is sought out by private collectors, but his most famous installations are found in the biggest gallery in the world: the street. JR’s talent was first recognized with Portrait of a Generation. Starting as an unauthorized project, this Braquage picture made viewers ask themselves two questions: is this the suburbs of Paris or Cairo? Is that a gun he is holding? (In fact, the picture is in Montfermeil, near Paris, and he is holding a camera.) JR’s art is engaging, powerful, and politically transcendent. His Face 2 Face installation in Israel and Palestine created a connection between the protagonist and the viewer that transcends stereotypes and misconceptions.

In 2011, he was offered a “Wish to Change the World” when he won the Ted prize. JR’s wish was to use art to change the world with his art project entitled Inside Out. From the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to Times Square in New York, people are using this project to share their portrait as a statement of ideals and beliefs they stand for. Anyone can send their portrait to his studio and receive the print back, then use it to share their idea.  An example of the project in action is this rural community of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

JR’s drive is not fame – in fact, he wears a hat and sunglasses to remain anonymous - or money (he receives donations to support his work, but does not receive support from any brands). His motivation is encouraging viewers of his work to ask themselves, and others, thoughtful questions. 

JR’s connection with the Big Apple started when he was a budding artist invited to tag a building in NoHo. Little did he know, the space would become his studio years later thanks to a generous patron. JR has done more than simply keep a studio in the art district – he has embraced the city.

Walking New York, a Flatiron district art installation by noted French artist JR. “Unframed”, an art installation at New York City’s Ellis Island by French artist JR.

Walking New York was one of the first Virtual Reality videos produced by the New York Times. In the video, JR brings you on the journey from his studio to the creation of the art at the Flatiron Building. This piece embodies the essence of New York: passing through the city unnoticed since most of its inhabitants are focused on their own lives. The walking immigrant became the center of focus, and pedestrians were the shadows on this unique Flatiron district installation that made the cover of the NY Times magazine.

A similar experience was produced with the American Ballet Theatre. Through a massive trompe l'oeil rendering of an eye utilizing life-size photos of New York City Ballet dancers, art transcended the connection between the viewer and the model.

On Ellis Island, JR made a lasting connection with the city’s inhabitants, immigrants, and history. Dotting the old hospital on the island with pictures from the archive, his Unframed installation brings each room to life through imagery of the immigrants waiting in line, the nurse and doctors in the operating room, and the framed view of the Statue of Liberty.

JR’s love of the city of Paris and its people is infinite, from covering the Pantheon to embracing the Opéra Garnier. His current art project takes over the Pyramid at the Louvre Museum. Under the visitor’s eye, the pyramid forms one amorphous building with the palace behind.

French artist JR’s latest installation, “Raising Questions”, at the Louvre in Paris.

This latest “Raising Questions” installation is another example of JR’s belief that “the most important is the place where I locate my pictures and the meaning they take depending on the location”.

You can support JR’s work through his limited series and his book.

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