JR’s Socially Conscious Street Art Celebrated in Largest Museum Exhibition Yet

JR Installation at USA Mexico Border

“Migrants, Mayra, Picnic across the border, U.S.A.” (2017). Installation image. Wheat-pasted. © JR-ART.NET

French street artist JR is the subject of a major exhibition opening at London's Saatchi GalleryJR: Chronicles is the largest solo museum exhibition of the acclaimed artist's work and features his iconic installations from over the past 15 years. First opening in New York, the expanded exhibition is now celebrating JR's career on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

The exhibit, which was curated by Sharon Matt Atkins and Drew Sawyer from the Brooklyn Museum, uses photos, video, and ephemera to trace JR's career. JR: Chronicles begins with a look at his work as a young teenage photographer documenting the work of graffiti artists and takes visitors through his creation of large-scale architectural installations around the world.

JR's early work immediately shows his interest in giving a voice to underrepresented communities. This is particularly evident with Portrait of a Generation, his 2004 to 2006 project that features portraits of young people from Les Bosquets. This housing project in the suburbs of Paris was the center of countryside riots in 2005 due to socioeconomic tensions. It was this imagery that launched JR on an international level.

Portrait of a Generation Les Bosquets by JR

“28 Millimètres, Portrait d'une génération, Braquage, Ladj Ly and JR, Les Bosquets Montfermeil, France.” (2004). Installation images, black-and-white photograph. © JR-ART.NET

From there, he never slowed down. JR continued to push his commitment to community, collaboration, and civic discourse. Through the course of the exhibit, visitors are invited along with the artist to his travels in Israel and Palestine, Brazil, Cuba, and Mexico, among other countries. By viewing materials from his iconic projects, including Wrinkles of the City and Women Are Heroes, we see JR championing the unsung members of the communities he visits.

As the exhibition progresses, JR tackles bigger projects—both in scale and significance. He takes on America's gun problem with 2018's The Gun Chronicles: A Story of America and the US/Mexico border wall with his 2017 installations. The London exhibition culminates with some of JR's latest work, including installations at the Louvre and his interactions with inmates at a maximum-security prison in California.

JR: Chronicles takes visitors on a global journey through the intimate storytelling of one of today's most influential contemporary artists,” shares Laura Uccello, partnerships director at Saatchi Gallery. “The exhibition opens in London during a key moment in time in which social engagement and the power of communities have taken center-stage in London and around the world.”

JR: Chronicles is organized by the Brooklyn Museum. The exhibition will open at Saatchi Gallery, London on June 4, 2021 with major support provided by Art Explora. The show runs until October 3, 2021 and tickets are on sale now via the Saatchi website.

JR: Chronicles is the largest solo museum exhibition of French street artist JR's work.

Photography of a Man by Street Artist JR

“28 Millimètres, Portrait d'une generation; Byron.” (2004). Gelatin silver photograph. © JR-ART.NET

Portrait of a man by street artist JR for Face 2 Face Project

“28 Millimètres. Face 2 Face, Khader, Body Guard.” (2007). Gelatin silver photograph. © JR-ART.NET

Through photos, video, and ephemera, the exhibition traces the internationally acclaimed artist's career.

Photo of a woman's eyes on bricks for Women Are Heroes Project

“28 Millimètres, Women Are Heroes, Eyes on Bricks, New Delhi, India.” (2009). Color lithograph. © JR-ART.NET

Women Are Heroes Posters Pasted on the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro

“28 Millimètres, Women Are Heroes, Action dans la Favela Morro da Providéncia, Favela de Jour, Rio de Janeiro.” (2008). Installation image. Wheat-pasted posters on buildings. © JR-ART.NET

JR's commitment to community and spotlighting the underrepresented is clear when following his projects.

Portrait of a woman in Liberia by street artist JR

“Women Are Heroes, Liberia, Jessie Jon.” (2009). Gelatin silver photograph. © JR-ART.NET

Women Are Heroes Projection on Bridge in Paris

“28 Millimètres, Women Are Heroes, Exhibition in Paris, Pont Louis-Philippe-Pont Marie Side by Night with Barge, France.” (2009). Color lithograph. © JR-ART.NET

The show, which opens at London's Saatchi Gallery on June 4, was originally organized by the Brooklyn Museum.

Women Are Heroes Action During Holi Fest in Jaipur

“28 Millimètres, Women Are Heroes, Action in Jaipur, Holi Fest, India.” (2009). Color lithograph. © JR-ART.NET

JR Posters on Destroyed Building in Montfermeil

“28 Millimètres, Portrait d'une génération, B11, Destruction #2, Montfermeil, France.” (2013). Installation image. Wheat-pasted posters on building. © JR-ART.NET

JR: Chronicles shows how JR has been a champion of social discourse for the past 15 years.

Chronicles of Clichy-Montfermeil by JR

“The Chronicles of Clichy-Montfermeil” (2017). Detail, Duratrans prints, lightbox. © JR-ART.NET

Still from JR's The Gun Chronicles

Still from “The Gun Chronicles” (2018). Video, black and white, sound. © JR-ART.NET

JR: Website | Instagram | Facebook

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by JR Studio.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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