• Words and Photos by Sarah Sansom

On The Road: Vitry-sur-Seine, France


C215 portrait at 5 Rue Clément Perrot, Vitry-sur-Seine

If you like the work of French artist C215, aka Christian Guemy, you will LOVE Vitry-sur-Seine, a suburb 5 miles south of Paris. The artist started an initiative in 2009 to brighten the streets of this semi-industrial 'commune', painting hundreds of stencils and inviting artists to join him.


With a population of 82,000 and a 26.5% rate of unemployment (national average 10%), Vitry-sur-Seine has both artistic and musical influence, contributing to the development of Hip Hop in France, giving birth to rappers such as Rohff, Doudou Masta, and the group 113.


The town has a similar demographic to the 13th Arrondissement in Paris with a large immigrant population, meaning the centre has multiple housing developments and schools - a perfect canvas for street art.


What else is there apart from C215? Work by around 100 international artists including ROA, Louis Masai, Icy & Sot, Alice Pasquini, Fin Dac and DAZE, with over 400 pieces of art.


There are also excellent patisseries, perfect for stop offs while art-hunting...

Here are 8 key areas:

1: Central Place du Marché

Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada's NINA, 2013, of C215´s daughter. A tribute to Vitry and to Nina’s presence in Christian Guemy’s work around the world

Located at 7 Avenue Henri Barbusse

Franco-Congolese artist KOUKA Ntadi, 2013, Bantu warriors at 38 Avenue Henri Barbusse:

'By painting this character wherever I went, I realized how universal this story was. I received messages that showed me the hope and inspiration that the image of this warrior could provide.'

- Kouka

'Wurst Chaos' by Austrian artist HNRX, 2017. I've enjoyed his art in London, about which he says,

'I founded the "Save the Sausage" campaign in 2012. It's an icon, a way to put up my art quickly all over the world. I like to paint food on the street, out of context. It's a lot of fun, the way my stuff works in a system full of profound things. That's the reason I do it.' - HNRX

Belgian artist ROA, June 2016, overlooking a park at 127 Avenue Paul Vaillant Couturier

As he says,

'Graffiti is one of the most free art expressions of the world; you don’t do it for money nor for an institution. It’s free expression and liberates yourself creatively from a lot of restrictions.' - ROA

2: Around the Théatre Jean Vilar

Italian artist Alice Pasquini, a former protégé of C215, at 4 Rue Neuve

On her process, the artist says,

'Street art has become an escape valve from my work as an illustrator. I approached the world of street art initially through posters taking my ‘comics’ in the streets: naughty girls, strong women, curious, independent. Then I met the stencil artist C215, who taught me a stencil technique that is fast to work with and which lets me leave a trace of the free hand work I could not do in a short time.' - Alice Pasquini, Street Art United States, 2013

Fun building by Bebar, who painted in Freeman Alley recently. Located at 5 Rue de la Somme

C215 at 5B Rue de la Glaciere

3: Apartment complex at 21 Avenue Youri Gagarine

Portrait by British Artist David Walker using only spray paint, 2012, curated by Rom Levy for The World Open Walls project

Rome's Alice Pasquini, 2012.

C215, Brazil's Rodrigo Cardoso Dos Santos, 'Coloured Emotions' by Sema Lao, Mickey by Avataar, Hora French, C215

4: Around the park at 3 Rue Audigeois

‘L’amour’ by French, London-based Zabou with support from @vitrynurbain

'Vitry’n Urbaine and myself built a long term project (two and a half years from beginning to end!) to paint an unusual spot in the city centre. The wall is particularly interesting as it it cylindrical. After finally obtaining permission from both the landlord and the town hall… I sprayed the hell out of it! The artwork represents a couple kissing, with both characters spread across the surface. It’s meant to be a soft, beautiful image celebrating love for all.' - Zabou

L7, Unknown artist, Sitou Matt Imagination, Thierry Noir, Icy & Sot and Little Pix

Mantra and Takt colab, 3 Rue Audigeois.

French artist Atom Ludik and Brooklyn-based Icy and Sot

Tenzin Gyatso (the Dalai Lama) by Parisien tattoo artist Phu Phi, and a portrait by David Walker

Icy and Sot (notice the dollar arms) 2014, Allé de la Petite Faucille

6: Between Place L'Eglise and Rue Saint-Germain

NYC's DAZE, 5 Rue de 18 Juin 1940, (named after a famous speech beginning French Resistance during occupation)

Skateboarder by Zebra, cat by #Hellpuss, Avatar, Unknown, Basquiat by Seny, Girl on heart by Lolie Darko, Monkey by Seny, Woman by Alloyius Mcilwaine and C215 (click to see full images)

Louis Masai, 2015, 3 Avenue de l'Abbé Roger Derry. Part of his 'One Love' series depicting endangered species

'One Love' represents the humanity of people and the warmth of people. We can’t be one race, we can’t be one species but we can be one love… the more you embrace love, the stronger we can be as a planet' - Louis Masai

Your intrepid reporter imitating Montmartre's Gregos, who moulds his own face, at 7 Rue Saint-Germain

Model and animal rights activist Pamela Anderson by Victoriano at 5 Avenue l'Abbé Roger Derry

Above: animals including SteW birds, Adey's trademark rabbits, a C215 pug (!) and cat.

About his birds, SteW says,

'For me, birds represent freedom. I think humanity should see the world from the sky like a bird and realise just how beautiful the earth is.' - Vitry artist SteW, CultureTrip.com

7: Along Avenue Paul Vailant-Couturier, main street from train station

Fin DAC, 2012, 1 Avenue de la République, which started his trademark of using Asian muses:

'The path to painting Asian women started with the Vitry murals… both of which are women. The piece on the door was of a very young girl whose photo I found on Flickr. I loved her look and wanted to continue to work with her after painting her that first time.

That was the genesis of the idea… the mask came a couple of years later and I guess you could say was the final piece in the puzzle. I never tell anyone its meaning though, as that would spoil the mystery.' - Fin DAC, Street Art 360

Touareg boy by 15-YR old artist SENY

C215 montage at 171 Avenue André Maginot

C215 (said to be named after a prison cell he was once held in), often paints the overlooked: the homeless, refugees, elderly, and ordinary locals. As you walk along this street you'll see many, as well as work by Seny (Le Corbusier) Bebar and Indigo.

8: Lastly, if you're like me, you go to Vitry for C215's cats:

C215 paints cats around the world with incredible depth (especially for stencils), and emotion. If he uses the same stencil, he'll use different colors so each is unique.

Left: Falling kitten, profile and sitting cats at 8 Rue de la Glaciere. Forward-facing cat at 1 Avenue l'Abbé Roger Derry

Above and below: Found at 145 Avenue Paul Vailant-Couturier.

This expression slays me.

As you can see, there's a boundless amount of inspiringly beautiful art here, making it soulful experience a short stop away from Paris.

Visiting Vitry-sur-seine:

Interactive map (click to enlarge):

Map courtesy of Street-art Trompe L'oeil

Travel:

Vitry-sur-Seine is served by two stations on Paris RER line C: Vitry-sur-Seine and Les Ardoines.

Orly Airport is located near Vitry-sur-Seine.

An Uber trip from central Paris is €15-20 ($17-23)

Resources:

Vitry 'N Urbaine is a local association that offers tours and helps artists find walls: IG: Vitrynurbaine

Street Art Cities also has an interactive map with descriptions: Street Art Cities Paris

Musée d'Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne: Macval.fr

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