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Fred le chevalier

the Paris authorities and their Street Art Schizophrenia

As Fred le Chevalier got busted in Menilmontant while posting a huge drawing, it is time to take a moment and look at how the City judges street art today.

It should have been a nice day. An art amateur contacted Fred le Chevalier, one of Paris’s most emblematic colleur, to attend and document one of his collage. But it was without the unsollicited participation of the Police. A few minutes after Fred started working on his piece, a very polite gentleman showed up and, in a very civilized way, pretty much told him that he will face an automatic kafkaiesque penalty if he does not take his piece down and stop posting art around. And stop doing it forever.

So let’s stop a minute, and look at the situation here. We have, in fact, a few actors involved : The Police, the law-makers, the artists, the Parisians, the City-Hall and the world.

The Police, techinically, only obeys to the law-makers, and to the City-hall. If this very awkward intimidation should not be tolerated (citizens cannot face random acts of terror like being stopped in the street, out of all legal process, and threatened to be followed forever and to have to pay millions.), the Police is only paid to implement the rules.

What are the rules ? Pretty much, you can’t do anything. The law-makers do not make any distinction on what’s being done (art, organized advertising, political poster or sheer vandalism), and posting art costs 750€ per pieces when you got busted, and drawing directly on the wall is waaaaay more expensive (2500€). Why ? Of course, if everybody was to do it, blablabla, and it costs a lot to take it off, blablabla…

But what about the Parisians ? Just take a walk in areas known for street art and see all the people, families, enjoying and taking pictures of unsollicited art… Paris is an aging city, with a few grumpy old people who are happily calling the City Hall toll free number to get art removed from the walls, but all in all, most Parisians love street arts, and run to cultural venues each time a street art show is happening…

Doesn’t the City Hall see this ? Oh oui, it does ! And the City Hall organizes all kinds of event and meetings around Street Art. Again, you cannot be Paris, this unique city claiming to be the capital of the Arts, and not have a decent street art scene. The City Hall knows the world is watching the Paris street art scene, they know that on the 28 millions tourists that visit Paris each year, a substantial number of them will take pictures of street art, post them on all kinds of social networks and explain how cool Paris is… It would actually be interesting to see the money spent on destroying street art versus the money brought by street artists who, in spite of the threats of the law, keep on being creative on our walls and makes dull spaces beautiful. The money from free communication for Paris, the money from tourists going to Belleville, Ménilmontant or the Canal and spending money there for a half day, etc…

But the City Hall doesn’t want to officially admit it, and keeps on prosecuting street artists. Today, by assaulting somebody as nice and creative as Fred le Chevalier, the City Hall is in fact pulling a bullet in it foot (as we say here). What if Fred actually listens to the Police, and stops. Who will be punished ? Him, for sure, but us, all of us, even more. And mostly the City Hall itself, by killing the little genuine art scene still left in Paris, and the money and reputation that comes from it. Because what’s at stake, today, if for Paris not to become another Venice… And it’s people like Fred who are working for free for our community so that this terrible fate does not happen…

Paris already love its street artists. It is now time for the City Hall to defend them, instead of trying to freak them out. I’m not saying that the City Hall should officially say : « hey kids, go ahead and draw whatever you like on the wall ! ». That would not be a good idea, and this apparent schizophrenia is probably a legal asset for the local authorities. But terrorizing the people that prevent Paris from being a museum city, the dead shadow of a former artistic capital city, is not only useless and counter-productive. It’s simply mean.