Paris Tower “Graffed” by Arab Street Artists, Then Destroyed (VIDEO)

El Seed CalligraffitiThe world’s biggest street art exhibition was demolished this week in Paris just one month after opening to the public. Destruction of the wildly popular Tour Paris 13 was staged as carefully as its creation.  This wall-to-wall-to-ceiling-to-floor painting project was performance art every step of the way.

It was the brainchild of gallery owner and Street Art impresario Medhi Ben Cheikh. Supported by Paris officials, he already had a history of attracting popular street artists to his 13th arrondissement neighborhood to paint large murals.  When he learned that a building overlooking the Seine was to be knocked down, he hatched this monumental “art-lab”.

Galerie Itinerrance“It has been quite a thrill,” he told the Wall Street Journal. A decade ago, the former high-school art teacher opened his Galerie Itinerrance in Paris, cultivating contacts with the likes of American graphic designer Shepard Fairey (made famous for his Obama “Hope” poster) and Green Prophet fave, Franco-Tunisian Arab calligraphist eL Seed.

 Mehdi ben CheikhBen Cheikh invited 105 visual artists from 18 countries to redecorate the structure.  (Its 36 apartments formerly housed railroad workers.)  Each time he learned a street artist was coming to Europe, he’d reach out to pull them aboard his project.

Artists worked for seven months to “graff” 4,500 square meters of interiors, façades and stairwells, donating their work in exchange for accommodation and materials.  All were cool with the notion that their art would be destroyed with the building.

 Paris Street ArtThe end product was a wild mosaic of street-art trends, including works by artists from Iran, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.

A1oneThe Iranian street artist A1one combined Arabic calligraphy with stunning portraiture (images above and below).

 A1oneParis-based artist Rodolphe Cintorino created a horrifying vision of war-torn Syria, hanging dozens of empty spray paint cans over a map of the country, symbolizing bombs in mid-air.

The variety of styles is captured in the short video below:

YouTube Preview Image

Calligraphy by el Seed covered one of the outside walls (see lead image).

“Even if Arabic calligraphy is standardized, [el Seed] reinvented a new typography just like the first street artists did using Latin letters inside speech bubbles,” Ben Cheikh explains. The new Arabic script “puts across a very contemporary image of the Arab world and Arab identity.”

Maryam was one of two Saudi women who painted dressed in hijab. “Maryam and her sister graff all year in Jeddah,” says Ben Cheikh. “Even with all the restrictions, you can try to live your passion.”

El Seed has conducted graffiti workshops in Doha and Jeddah but thinks the Saudi capital is a tougher audience. “It’s stricter there,” he says. “I can’t imagine someone graffing in Riyadh.”

The Tour Paris 13 project goes entirely digital for the next two weeks, so if you missed the actual exhibit there’s still a chance to check out the images online.

All images from Galerie Itinerrance

About Laurie Balbo

At university, she was annoyed that her architecture degree was called a Bachelor of Environmental Design. As a working architect, she was annoyed that projects weren’t designed with more environmental consideration. She’s a usually-annoyed architect and sustainability specialist who hopes that venting her frustrations will make a positive environmental difference. Her husband just hopes it makes her less annoyed. Born in the United States, Laurie has managed design and managed construction of ports and airports in New York, Dublin and now Amman. She blogs on knitting and other arcane topics at Laurie can be reached at [email protected]

2 thoughts on “Paris Tower “Graffed” by Arab Street Artists, Then Destroyed (VIDEO)

  1. Laurie

    Thanks for sharing that link, Mariame – I’ve been having a hard time finding sites showing the amazing artworks. Yay, Paris! for supporting accessible art!!!


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