Despite what most people think street artists have been around long before Banksy came on to the scene. The movement first gained attention in the 80’s when the Washington Project for the Arts held a ‘Street Works’ exhibition featuring John Fekner, Fab Five Freddy and Lee Quinones. Quickly sparking controversy and conversation these artists resemble a modern day Robin Hood. Their art aspires the change the status quo, question the existing environment, and communicate with people about socially relevant issues.
French photographer and graffiti artist, JR, has plans to change the world through his art. Self proclaimed ‘photograffeur’ (photographer and graffiti artist) and owner of the largest art gallery in the world, JR has worked in countless cities around the world.
One of his first projects, ‘Portrait of a Generation’, displayed enormous prints of thugs on the streets of luxury Paris neighborhoods. His unsanctioned art became official when Paris City Hall covered it’s building in his portraits. His next project ‘Face 2 Face’ took place in Israel. It consisted of monumental size portraits of Palestinians and Israelis pasted on the separation fence along the Gaza Strip.
Much of his work focuses on juxtaposing two sides of a controversy and forces you to confront the issue. Especially his most recent ‘Women are Heroes’ where his art calls attention to women in troubled regions and spans across several countries including Africa, China, Belgium, Brazil, India and Spain.
He is also the youngest recipient of TED’s Prize, which will allow him an opportunity to fulfill his wish to change the world. Each year the TED organization awards 100,000 dollars to someone who is trying to make the world a better place. He used this money to form ‘InsideOut’—a global art project. Giving everyone the opportunity to share their portrait and a statement of what they stand for in the same giant style as his other projects.
JR’s universal art gives people who often live with less than nothing the chance to discover and create something that is a luxury for most of us. As he states on his website, “Some elderly women become models for a day; some kids turn artists for a week. In that Art scene, there is no stage to separate the actors from the spectators”