Sunday, 21 February 2010

Life at the Crossroads

Beside the Belleville Metro station is a creation by the Belgian artist Bonom. Although I didn't know who he was at the time, Bonom is someone who has already inspired me in Paris. Nicknamed the Belgian Banksy (mostly for his desire to remain anonymous), he creates monumental figures of animals, skeletons and fossils, pictures that often climb 15-20 metres up the bare stone sides of an apartment building. Here in Belleville, they are a tangle of snakes, resembling the hair of Medusa or simply a mapwork of cracks in an ancient wall.

What particular caught my eye here is the fact that they seem to spring from a trace of the past, a name carved into the wall of a neighbouring building. "Aux Quatre Arrondissements" is a reference to the fact that Belleville stands at the crossroads of four different arrondissements (10th, 11th, 19th and 20th), but what was this name promoting? From what I have been able to discover, it was the name of a large shop dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, a store belonging to a group known as the "Grands Magasins de Nouveautés".

Over 100 years later, the unifying nature of this position seems more important than ever. Today a Chinese supermarket occupies the space beneath this sign, but the crossroads shelters a multitude of nationalities and religions. Jewish patisseriess sit next to Vietnamese restaurants and Halal butchers, whilst Bangladeshis sell roasted chestnuts from supermarket trolleys alongside Africans with baskets of steamed sweetcorn. How suitable it seems therefore to find a cutting edge street artist here next to a footprint of the area's past.

8 comments:

Louis said...

I'm a great fan of the incredible cultural diversity around the intersection of r. de Belleville and blvd. de Belleville. It's hard to believe I've never seen this art before, but next time I'm at the métro station I'll be sure to take a minute and look around! Thanks for pointing it out!

Thérèse said...

So interesting!
The title is really perfect for the street artist and the place.

Peter said...

The Medua reference is obvious! (I may prefer the Caravaggio version.) :-)

Paris is really getting cosmopolitan and this is certainly the perfect area to illustrate it.

Cergie said...

Un carrefour tout à fait. La rue de Belleville est la frontière entre deux arrondissements à mon niveau. Et une grande richesse au niveau du peuplement fait le charme de ce coin : même des vrais bistrots parisiens.
Je ne connaissais pas Bonom ; il a trouvé des surfaces d'exposition bien en vue. Il sortira bien de l'anonymat un jour, va.
Ce qui m'intéresse aussi dans l'évolution des villes est la façon dont sont reconvertis les anciens bâtiments comme les relais de poste qui peu à peu sont englobés. Les bistrots à la frange de la ville comme "le dernier sou" à Nancy, on peut en trouver partout, mais ils ne sont plus isolés.

Celine in London said...

I did not know the street artist Bonom, I had a look at his facebook page and I really like his work!

Adam said...

Celine: Bonom is a very talented artist and has left a few very interesting creations around Paris. I think his most famous work though is of a kind of stop-action dinosaur in Brussels alongside a railway track. When you go past in a train, it looks as if the dinosaur is running! Here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsW7f30oT34

Celine in London said...

thanks adam. that video is just amazing! what a great idea!!

Lapin Agile said...

Great blog. I am enjoying it!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Twitter Instagram Write Bookmark this page More

 
Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Premium Wordpress Themes