For the third edition of urban art awards Artaq, organisers chose “Dare to dare” as this year’s theme. The result is 130 artists from 48 countries currently exhibiting at the Espace Pierre Cardin, a stone’s throw away from Place de la Concorde and the Champs Elysees. Some of the art is great, the exhibition is… puzzling.
Being my first time at Espace Pierre Cardin I immediately questioned the coherency of an urban art exhibition being held in probably one of the smartest and most exclusive areas in Paris.
Artaq emphasise on their website that their objective is to bring attention to, and create respect for, those artists who “most represent the evolution of Urban Art”. The judges consider a wide range of art: from stencils and tags to digital art and sculpture, and judging is carried out by an elite squad, and 23 anonymous artists are also asked to vote.
On entering the space, three empty champagne glasses were on the floor next to a dozen spray paint canisters, toilet roll and some canvasses stacked up next to one another. I scribbled down Incongruity? for the second time.
Although the geography had me baffled, the pieces were great. A beautiful, elegant nude painting in ochre by artist “Y2” (France) was juxtaposed next to Michal Mraz’ urban scene, where he uses stencils to show the grimy, unforgiving multi-storey buildings of his native Slovakia.
I also really enjoyed the photographs of French Dja’Louz’s graffiti, painted in situ using a variety of techniques (angle, colour, shading, movement…) to give a 3D impression, his tag crawling out of a bath and along the floor for example. I always like to be able to understand the Street (or bathroom) in Street Art, even if this necessarily means that a gallery can then only show a photo.
David Gouny’s oversized polyester sculptures made me smile. While most are photographs of his work in situ, the squishy, puffer-jacket public telephone is so tempting to touch that there really does need to be a “do not touch” sign next to it. It was a shame that the pieces were only accompanied by a small sign with with name of the artist and their award, not any information on the piece itself (materials, technique, date…).
It was on turning around from Franck Martin’s stunning painting of an artist cleaning his floor surrounded by canvasses of screaming faces and scenes of devastation, that I heard what I assumed was an audio piece from the exhibition. Intrigued, I climbed the stairs slowly, and unexpectedly found myself in the middle of a publicity event for a leading armchair brand. Confused, I did wonder briefly if this belonged to the exhibition; a large satirical commentary on commercialism perhaps?