Marseille and Lille, two French cities with unique artistic identities, have a vibrant street art scene. For years, the walls of Marseille have been littered with rivers of paint, the work of talented street artists. This is hardly surprising, given that the city of Marseille was the cradle of the hexagonal hip-hop movement, an artistic discipline closely linked to Street Art. The same is true of Lille, where the Street Art identity has been very strong for more than 4 decades, the city having given birth to great names in the discipline such as Mimi le Clown or Jef Aérosol. Even better, Lille regularly welcomes street artists for various cultural events such as the International Mural Art Biennial. Let’s take a look!
Marseille: Street Art as an identity
In the early days of the Street Art movement, Marseille was a breeding ground for local street artists, with its unique energy, iconic neighbourhoods, but also its characters and frustrations. This is probably why the movement was born politicised, but not always, and ended up having as many subjects as local artists, thus contributing to becoming an integral part of the city.
Over time, the artists began to gain recognition, emerging from relative anonymity to receive the first commissions from shopkeepers, institutions and public authorities. The city’s famous L2 bypass, opened between 2016 and 2018, is a telling example. Supported by the association Planète Émergences, some fifty local and international artists have given free rein to their creativity on the gigantic walls lining the road. The frescoes on display, most of which are huge paintings, cover 40,000 m², spread over the 10 kilometres of the route, placed at interchanges or on technical installations.
Today, Marseille attracts street artists from all over the world to express themselves. The Cours Julien district and the Panier remain the two most popular sites, where Street Art Tours are now held and where visitors can receive detailed explanations of the works on display. Each artist decides on his or her own destiny, whether to continue to flirt with walls and forbidden places or to take a more conventional approach.
Lille : a real Street Art destination
As we said, Lille has a particularly strong Street Art identity. An identity that has been built up over more than 40 years, a period during which the city has seen the birth of recognised artists. Let’s also remember that Lille welcomes big names of the Street Art scene during the different cultural events organised in the city, notably the Urban Experiences Festival, the International Biennial of Mural Art or the Can’Art.
Lille has also distinguished itself at this level by hosting major exhibitions, such as :
- The Sueños exhibition dedicated to the artist Jef Aérosol in 2019;
- Street Generation(s): 40 years of urban art in 2017;
- Art Up, an event organised at the Contemporary Art Fair since 2008;
- Di(X)Visions – Immersion in Northern Graffiti in 2017 ;