The Best Art is Outside of the Louvre

Graffiti or street art? Defacement or activism? The big cities I’ve visited in France, Spain, and Hungary boast lively (and sometimes provocative) messages in their public spaces. Personally, looking at street art is an essential part of wandering streets because it provides a chance to tap into the vibe of a city.

While the argument continues over street art’s/activism’s place on historical buildings, here’s a collection of some of the best street art I’ve discovered studying abroad.

Reims, France

First, let’s start in my host city. I discovered these pieces of art on a run through the city, along the canal. It first caught my eye with the bright colors and geometric design, and the artist’s signature as “elle,” which in English is “she”

The second piece has the quote “le soleil brille pour tous // que les rois de ce monde en prennent l’exemple” which, after research, turns out to be a lyric from Keny Arkana’s “Entre les lignes #1.” Keny Arkana is a female French rapper from Marseille, and the lyric roughly translates to “the sun shines for all // for all the kings in the world: take notice.”

Spotted on the main shopping street, this sticker reminds a passerby that there are “no jobs on a dead planet, but millions of jobs for a livable planet.” The website outlines a political action campaign to help an ecological transition gain momentum in France.

Paris, France

This provocative stop sign near the steps of Sacré Coeur can be understood by all, as a message to stop war.

A caricature Parisienne, complete with the classic stripes, peaks over the streets of Montmartre.

Paris has a growing vegan scene, and stickers like these can be spotted around young neighborhoods such as Montmartre and Le Marais.

A bright green flower, a matriarch and three creatures accent a steep street in the Belleville neighborhood.

Germaine Tillion, depicted here near the 19th arrondissement, was a French ethnologist whose work in the French Resistance in WWII and research on the Algerian War of Independence earned her the Grand-croix de la Légion d’honneur, or the highest award for French militants or civil servants.

A young boy asks “Dad, what’s money?” on an overpass connecting the 19th and 18th arrondissements. This piece was created by P. Boy (Pascal Boyart), who has a QR code just out of the frame to accept donations in Bitcoin.

“Are you talking to me?” asks the angry smoking ghost at the end of a mile-long strip of graffiti along the 19th overpass.

Barcelona, Spain

A collection of cutouts peeling off the wall test the permanence of street art.

Akore, an artist based in Barcelona, has this statement on his website: “Painting is the act of trespassing a border. It doesn’t matter if that is a fence, a wall, a canvas or a piece of paper …  all you have to do is to cross it.”

Valencia, Spain

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the CSU system, nor SDSU (but they do represent the views of most Europeans).

A little cat enclave in old town Valencia. Rent dependent on how many mice you bring home.

Budapest, Hungary

Not technically on the street, the “ruin bars” of Budapest transport visitors back to 1990 and into a grunge paradise. These bars can be found all over the city, and the most famous, Szimpla Kert, turns from a Farmer’s Market during the day into a youth bar scene at night.

Sarah Karver is a comparative international studies sophomore with a minor in French. She is studying spring semester in Reims, France.

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