The oldest graffiti in Paris?
Photo credit: https://www.unjourdeplusaparis.com/

The oldest graffiti in Paris?

I often get asked about the origins of street art. Most people connect it with the NYC Graffiti that emerged in the 1970s. But graffiti form is much older than that. For a fact, it already existed in ancient times.

What exactly does “graffiti” mean? In its raw definition, graffiti is a form of a drawing or short text written or scratched without authorization on someone’s else property.

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/

In Paris, the oldest trace of this sort of writing can be found at Place des Voges. It reads: “1764 Nicolas”. Today, I want to reveal who is the author of this mysterious tag. His name was Nicolas Restif de la Bretonne, and he was a writer. 1764 is the year when the tag was created. Nicolas came from a poor peasant family near Chablis, Auxerre. At 20 years of age, he was sent to Paris to presume a career of a typesetter. But very soon, he left his work at the Royal Printshop of The Louvre to perceive his new dream of writing. His first books gained lots of popularity. He was so passionate, and so productive, that to save paper, he would often print directly for publishing, without a hand script. He usually wrote about his many lovers, prostitutes, and the dangers of a big city, lurking at the young man from the countryside. He represented the immorality of 18th-century society of Paris.

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/

He loved wandering around the city, and during those walks, he would mark his presence with metal pin, usually on limestone walls of the buildings. Often there were aphorisms and wise quotes that he wanted to leave behind. Sometimes there were names of his lovers, or even his name (like in the case of the graffiti from Place des Voges). Other times, his sentences referred to real-time events from his life. For example, in 1780, when his wife left, he famously wrote: „Abiit hodie monstrum” – “the monster has left”. When he was refused publication, he would write „Rusticana recusata”, and when he was feeling joyful, he’d scratch the words: „Data tota, felix”. Most of his graffiti appeared at Ile Saint Louis, but none of it survived there.

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/

Today quite forgotten artist still intrigues many Parisians and visitors who notice his tag from 1764 on the walls of Place des Voges. A small reminder of history, of someone who just like us, wandered around the streets of this fascinating city, almost three centuries ago.

Written by:

Kasia Klon foundress of Street Art Tour Paris; artist (MFA in painting and printmaking) and a licensed tour guide.

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#rebootoberkampf
@Siegfried Gony

#rebootoberkampf

First of all a few words about Le Mur:

A former billboard situated on the corner between Rue Oberkampf and Saint Maur that in 2003 was taken over by the association, who, with permission of local town hall, invites a new artist almost every 2 weeks to apply their artwork. Over the years, it became one of the most important places for street artists to get noticed.

@Siegfried Gony
@ Siegfried Gony

All performances were cancelled since the lockdown, but since May 11th, artist Thomas Louis Jacques Schmitt (one of the heads of association) decided to #rebootoberkampf. Every day he comes at the spot and creates an image using his original cutting technique. Thanks to him, the place stays alive.

@ Siegfried Gony
@ Siegfried Gony

We interviewed Thomas to find out more about the beginnings of Le Mur and his career as an artist:

As I was working in a call center as my day job. One day, May 14th 2000 to be exact, I decided to start a new activity on the weekends. I began going to the corner of my street and glueing paper forms on the big billboard. It reminded me of the time I used to practice stencil art as a teenager growing up in Toulouse.

My collages kept getting removed, making a spot for yet another idea. At that time, I used to carry around a utility knife to remove the stickers of Front National whenever I found one. I decided to use the knife in my work, and this is how, almost by chance, I found my new technique. I would start cutting through the layers of advertisement.

I eventually lost my day job, but I kept cutting. At the time, the word “street art” was yet to be invented.

@ Siegfried Gony
@ Siegfried Gony

By the end of June 2000, I have met Invader whose studio was not far away from my billboard. Later I’ve also met ZEVS, famous for his night shadows and André, the hipster-graffer. I started introducing myself as Tom Tom, which was my childhood nickname. It soon became Thom Thom, which is the name I use until today.

9/11 was a turning point for all of us. One night, Invader told me: “Have you heard the new name they call us…? Street Artist”.

Today is 20 years from his first intervention at the place now known as Le Mur Oberkampf.

Written by:

Kasia Klon foundress of Street Art Tour Paris; artist (MFA in painting and printmaking) and a licensed tour guide.

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