JR: Blow Up

The Renegade Artist Spreads His Work Around the Globe in Filmmaker Matt Black’s Latest Portrait

Young people stare up at the sky from a Hong Kong bridge and a meters-long nude odalisque reclines along the banks of the Seine in artist JR’s infamous posters, explored in a new short from NOWNESS regular Matt Black. The massive, iconic images can be found hand-pasted to crumbling buildings, trains, garbage trucks and bridges, whimsically reclaiming the urban landscape. Now a TED Prize-winner, semi-aonymous JR grew up in the suburbs of Paris and began tagging and “exhibiting” on the streets as a teen. When he found a camera on the Metro, he started taking photographs. Now he’s shaking things up with a new system that allows everyone to print and post works in their own neighborhoods, all for free. “It’s true art. That’s why people want to participate,” says Black, who caught up with the self-described “photograffeur” as part of his Reflections series. Today JR, who views the city as “the biggest gallery in the world,” also shows in more traditional spaces, including Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin and the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Los Angeles MoCA, collaborating with artists such as Jose Parlà and Takashi Murakami. “He’s creating this monster project,” reflects the director, “showing that we’re all human—all equal.