10 Things to Know About… JR

Jean René, better known as JR, is a committed contemporary artist. The Parisian has been producing photography and street art for several years, and has been able to captivate a large audience. His specialty? Monumental works, often in the open air. He also says that he “owns the biggest art gallery in the world: the walls of the whole world”. Artsper presents this famous artist in 10 points!

The artist JR in front of the pyramid of Giza
The artist JR in front of the pyramid of Giza

1. He is a committed 21st century artists

His achievements are not just the simple fruit of the imagination. They are also a product of the artist’s mature reflections. JR does not create anything by chance, he gives meaning to everything. Whether he is expressing a political or social commitment or for current causes, he presents his point of view to the general public. In 2008, in Brazil, he paid tribute to female victims of violence. To do this, he decided to paint the favela Morro da Providência in Rio by covering each panel with female faces and named this achievement 28 Millimeters, Women Are Heroes. Following his project, he made the documentary Women Are Heroes.

28 Millimeters, Women Are Heroes, JR, 2008 - Favela Morro Da Providencia 
28 Millimeters, Women Are Heroes, JR, 2008 – Favela Morro Da Providencia 

2. He makes his first exhibition in the street

In the beginning, JR had fun framing his photographs on the walls with a can of paint. He changed location when he felt like it and invaded the walls of Paris. When the collage was removed, traces of spray paint remained on the wall. For him, “the city is the best gallery”. In his early days, he never imagined the magnitude that his creations would amass the years.

Expo 2 Street, JR, 2005
Expo 2 Street, JR, 2005

3. He is also a movie director

Passionate about photography and street art, his artistic fiber does not stop there. JR also has a passion for the cinema. He is the author of many documentary films such as Women Are Heroes or Les Bosquets, but also a film made alongside Agnès Varda where he goes to meet people on the French roads. Released in 2016, Visages, Villages follows a road trip on board JR’s famous photographic truck.

Poster of the film Visages, Villages, JR, 2016
Poster of the film Visages, Villages, JR, 2016

4. He uses different techniques in his work

JR mainly uses black and white in his collages. It is rare that he will use colors in his works. Adept with photography, he is known for his huge collages on paper. Also a street artist, he knows how to handle spray paint to perfection. JR is a very technical artist, who likes outdoor art and putting his works high up for all to see. 

5. He works with the help of his team

To create such big collages alone is obviously impossible. JR has at his side, a team of 15 specialists who help him during the creation of his artworks. These specialists in visual art are located in Paris and New York. A single mistake on the part of the team and it is the visual effect of the whole work which is spoiled!

JR and his team
JR and his team

6. He created a human project that he called Face 2 Face

In 2005, he stuck for the first time his portraits Face 2 Face alongside artists like Banksy, on the wall of Gaza. Then, JR returned a second time in 2007 to set up a huge exhibition of illegal photographs in the world. He will paste black and white portraits on the walls of each city. In total, he is present in 8 Palestinian and Israeli cities.

Face 2 Face, JR, 2007 - Gaza Wall
Face 2 Face, JR, 2007 – Gaza Wall

7. He is now a global artist

Paris, London, Abu Dhabi, and many other cities… JR is gradually taking over the world with his unique works and succeeding in conquering people’s hearts. He likes to feel close to those who admire him, and breaks the existing barrier between the artist and the viewer by creating unique and original projects. Of course, JR also exhibits his creations in art galleries and on Artsper, and it is possible to have a work of the artist in your own home.

8. He set up a revolutionary project: IOP

In 2011, JR launched his project: Inside Out Project (IOP) in California. The objective was to allow people to create their own portraits and to paste them in the JR’s style. Their actions are stored and put online. For this, the artist has set up photo booths in the streets of Paris, London, Abu Dhabi … Thus, this experience is accessible to all. In total, more than 300,000 posters have been distributed in over 150 countries. 

JR's photographic truck
JR’s photographic truck

9. JR made a double intervention at the Louvre

On two occasions, in 2016 and 2019, JR was invited by the Louvre to create an anamorphosis for the museum’s 30th anniversary. He worked on the deformation of an image with the help of a team of 400 people. Together, they unearthed the Louvre’s pyramid and made it rise from the ground. An extraordinary achievement that left spectators around the world stunned. In all, more than 2,000 pieces of paper were glued together. This ephemeral work was degraded over time by the steps of passers-by, the rain …

The secret of the great pyramid, JR, 2019 - Louvre
The secret of the great pyramid, JR, 2019 – Louvre

10. He is one of the partners of the Kourtrajmé school 

In 2018, JR became a partner of the Kourtrajmé school alongside the famous director Ladj Ly. Together, their goal is to allow young people who do not have the means, to follow an artistic training,100% free of charge. For those interested, there is no need to be a graduate. The Art and Image section welcomes a total of 14 students every year. However, motivation is essential!

JR and Ladj Ly
JR and Ladj Ly

The street artist has not finished surprising us and his latest creation to date is from May 2021. It is in his native city and more precisely on the esplanade of the Trocadero in Paris, that he has put a gigantic optical illusion of the Eiffel Tower.

What does he have in store for us next?

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