The Pont des Arts, connecting the Louvre to Rive Gauche of Paris, once carried the weight of hundreds of thousands of lovers. Once upon a time couples would latch a lock manifesting their love, engraved with their initials to the bridge and throw away the key, immortalizing their relationship by the Seine in Paris, the city of Love. Controversially Paris and the mayor were moved to dismantle some 45 tons of iron from the bridge’s railings for fear of its collapse, but with many couples infuriated, Paris needed to find some solution to their burdensome problem. Once the romantic padlocked bridge today has been transformed into a public gallery for street art, thanks to the mayor of Paris’s collaboration with a local gallery.
eLSeed work at the Pont des Arts.
Pantonio at the Pont des Arts.
Jace, El Seed, Brusk and Pantonio have been commissioned to paint panels the height of the railings so that no further romantic demonstrations—whether they be forever or for the moment, touristic or Parisian—weigh down the bridge’s architectural structure and compromise its engineering. These four artists from diverse backgrounds with various artistic styles together have given new life to the Pont des Arts. To better understand the art, we talked with Jace, a French graffiti-artist from Le Havre, who gave us insight into his vision for the bridge and the works that he has added. With such a big project attracting global visibility, it would be easy for the attention to go to an artist’s head, but Jace is humble and explains that his relationship with his work hasn’t changed at all: “I’m doing what I do best: le gouzou…” or his genre of anthropomorphic characters that appear frequently in his graffiti.
Work by Jace.
Space Invader gets a mention by Jace.
The artist says he takes inspiration from his surroundings, “from the idiosyncrasy and absurdity of certain every-day situations, from my ballads in the street, from the internet…” When asked about the meaning behind the work, he explained the layers of significance, “Certain ones have a surface “Carebear” layer (a commentary that I read a few days ago), while others have a more profound message. I just try to stay sufficiently vague so that everyone sees the meaning they want: many layers of understanding are possible. But the final result is still self-depreciating and a remedy for the prevailing moroseness.”
Although the artist is no newcomer to street-art, this project is very much in the spotlight of the media and a focus in the center of Paris. He views it having a different flavour than his usual street-art: “It’s bound to have a particular appeal in relation to the place: the site is so mythical and so loaded with history and symbols that I’m walking on a banana skin… It’s not easy to be in the center of Paris and to not be critiqued… I was conscious of them while doing this project. What reassures me is that the scale balances and I receive as many positive as negative responses (often by people who allow themselves to judge from stamps shared on the internet, without even making the effort to go to the place and deepen their judgement with a more global understanding of the work)…”
Brusk and Jace collaboration.
The Institut de France.
Jace is well aware of the public vision of his work, being frank about a double-edged reception to street-art, “There were already a lot of reactions through social media… I hope that the public here will take the time to look and reflect to the comedy that I painted and that I can touch a large audience and that the people will be sensitive to my mode of expression… Those who already know my work are proud of this “rise” on a Parisian monument and prove it on my Facebook page. For the others, too bad, you can’t please everyone, and it’s even better if that titillates conservative Parisian consciences, because this art is still interfering and isn’t completely consensual.”
Finally we asked if his work equated the 45 tons of padlocks that were recently taken off the bridge. He quiped, “We have free rein. Each of the four artists was left to take their inspiration for the place and the surface constraint (1 meter x 150 meters)… So on my end, I tried to give all my heart, but it’s certainly not easy to replace 45 tons of gestures of love!”
Brusk’s work at the Pont des Arts
Visit the artists online: Brusk, Pantonio, eLSeed and JACE.