French street artist JR has become something of a master of illusion, and his latest work just might be his most striking yet, with a photographic collage installation showing Paris’s beloved Eiffel Tower precariously perched atop a gaping canyon with a city below.
Visitors to the Eiffel Tower can pose with the artwork, appearing to leap across the gap, to straddle the cliffs, to fall into the chasm, or to peer down at the city far below. (And, as you’ll see below, they have done all of these things!)
The project is something of a followup to JR’s 2019 installation at the Louvre Museum, also in Paris, celebrating the 30th anniversary of I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid. The artist used 2,000 sheets of paper to create the illusion that the pyramid was rising not from the Louvre’s Cour Napoléon courtyard, but from a deep rock quarry. This fall, he’ll take the same technique to the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt for a project with Art d’Egypte.
All of the projects feature the artist’s signature black and white imagery with anamorphic photography—a distorted version of the image that appears normal when viewed from a single point. Stand in the right spot, and the 132-year-old Eiffel Tower perfectly aligns with JR’s photo backdrop, creating both a stunning optical illusion and an incredible photo op.
The 2019 Louvre installation lasted for just a single day before it was destroyed by visitors, but the Eiffel Tower piece, on the Place du Trocadéro near the Palais de Chaillot, is slated to remain on view for a month.
The public artwork was unveiled just days before the opening of “JR Chronicles,” the artist’s blockbuster Brooklyn Museum retrospective, touches down in Europe at the Saatchi Gallery in London. (Pace is also staging concurrent JR exhibitions in New York and London.)
JR has not given any interviews about the new piece at the Eiffel Tower, but a similar trompe-l’oeil pasting currently on the façade of the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence is a commentary about the closure of cultural institutions under lockdown restrictions, and how people have been cut off from art. (Similarly, the Eiffel Tower remains closed to visitors until July 16.)
“Without being able to enter a museum, to attend a concert or spend time at an exhibition, we realize that it is culture that gives life its color and that the beauty of our city is activated by the people that pass through it,” JR told CNN Style.
See more photos of the installation, alongside Instagram shots of people making the most of it, below.
“JR: Chronicles” is on view at SaatcJune 4–October 3, 2021.