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EVENT : “La Mauvaise Réputation” by C215

Once considered a marginal art form, street art has come a long way since then and is now beginning to follow in the footsteps of contemporary art. Initiated by Banksy, the urban art market is soaring and pursuing a more complex path, crystalizing a new urbanity, a true shift in today’s society. And so that’s how, today, street-artists are more inclined to exhibit their work in galleries.

Located in the 11th arrondissement of Paris, the Openspace gallery is a new space dedicated to contemporary urban art. Starting Saturday 20th May, French artist C215 will be showing his work as part of an exhibition titled “La Mauvaise Réputation” (Bad Reputation – Ed.). For this show, the Openspace gallery gave him carte blanche; the artist warns: “For once, I have worked on an exhibition destined not to please you, but rather to express myself on today’s world, its sickening icons, our paradoxes.”

As we particularly appreciate urban art here at OLOW, Samantha and Nicolas from the Openspace gallery gave us the opportunity to collaborate with C215 on very limited-edition t-shirts, sold exclusively during the exhibition’s opening night and at the OLOW shop. In order to better understand what goes on behind the scenes, we met up with Samantha from the Openspace gallery.





You have been at the helm of Graffiti Art magazine for a few years now; had you always planned to open a gallery specialised in urban art?

Nicolas Chenus founded Graffiti Art in 2008. I joined him in 2009 and became editor-in-chief the following year. But him and I have always worked either as curators or artists’ agents in parallel with our editorial work. Nicolas was the one to introduce Seen for the first time in France in 2007, which opened up a market for him and incited him to settle down for a bit in Paris. Nicolas worked as an artists’ agent for years. He represented Mist, then Smash 137, so he largely contributed to the success they know today. As for me, an academic and street art child, I curated my first exhibition in 2003, gathering all the artists of the French stencil scene. I wrote a few articles and books on the topic around which a cycle of international exhibitions was organised in the late 2000s. Lastly, Nicolas and I have also worked as artistic directors of Parisian galleries specialised in urban art that are now quite renowned. Following this experience, we decided to open the Openspace gallery in 2012. Our work as gallery owners is therefore separate from our work as journalists, and is really in the continuity of our respective journeys as curators. All while integrating our specific vision and journalistic curiosity, which led us to be interested in international talents we had never seen in France and to working in a different way than most galleries.



Exhibiting street artists in a gallery space is quite paradoxical as their medium is the street; how do you go about building a relationship with them?

The artists coming from the street art scene are first and foremost artists, otherwise they would indeed only be known as street artists. We really draw a distinction between street art that only deals with art in the streets, and urban contemporary art that is created by artists whose work fits within the scope of the public space as well as in an exhibition space (galleries as well as museums), with the common denominator being the workshop. It’s in this place of work that it all boils down to, in a mutual enrichment. The pieces of work created by the artists need to be read differently as they are not located in the same environment. The making context is also different and does not allow for the same creative process. It’s an incredibly rich and diversified movement. The street to gallery debate is quite dated and really doesn’t merit to be discussed to tell you the truth.




You’re exhibiting C215 for the first time, a renowned artist among the urban art scene ; how did you discover him?

I collaborated with C215 for a long time at the end of the 2000s. We know each other very well. But we hadn’t worked together in a while. With history’s hindsight, Nicolas wanted to ask Christian (Guémy – Ed.) to think about doing an ambitious exhibition in the gallery. We have been following his journey closely throughout the years, observing his forever intense hyperactivity despite his growing fame and media coverage. We are incredibly proud to open this exhibition with him as he’s a unique artist with an exceptional destiny. And an exceptional destiny calls for an exceptional exhibition!




You gave him free reign for this exhibition; do you do the same with all the artists you put on show?

No, that’s very rare! We like to develop projects extensively with our artists. We are both quite stubborn deep down… But C215 is so extremely intelligent and endowed with such great humanism that we knew freedom would be the greatest thing to offer him. Our aim was to create an extraordinary project with him and show all his admirers, as well as his critics, the scope of his talent and his generosity as an artist but also as a man. This exhibition is called La Mauvaise Réputation (Bad Reputation – Ed.) and sums up our generation: marked by political uncertainty and multiple questionings. It’s there to make us think about society, its symbols, its icons, and retrospectively, ourselves; all that through fifty or so portraits of various political figures, artists, criminals, intellectuals, etc.


Who would you say are three street-artists to keep an eye on?

If that means the talents of tomorrow, I would say Thomas Dartigues who does incredible work around the city, his space and his history in a very detailed and technical style. Eric Lacan is another very technical artist we are exhibiting in September. He is obsessed by the passing of time, with a dark and romantic style and an incomparable pictorial force. And lastly to leave France, I’d say Polish artist Robert Proch who is simply one of the greatest talents of this century. He likes to shake up our spatiotemporal bearings on canvases that convey a crazy chromatic energy as well as a unique pictorial touch that would make Delacroix roll over in his grave! We are exhibiting his work at the gallery at the end of October, and, exclusive piece of information, he has just started woodcarving!



Tee-shirt C215 X OLOW for the exhibition “La Mauvaise Réputation” (“The Bad Reputation”-ndlr)

available from Saturday 20 May online and at the vernissage



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