Who is JR?
Born in 1983 in the outskirts of Paris, JR became interested in street culture at an early age. At the age of 14, he was already spraying graffiti under the name "Face 3". He found a new focus at the age of 17 when he took part in a photography course and accidentally found a camera in the Charles de Gaulle metro station that a tourist had forgotten. He quickly found a favourite subject: graffiti sprayers in action. He stuck the photos on street walls, framed them in paint and labelled them "Expo de Rue". JR thus became his own curator. He discovered that his photos had a stronger emotional effect than his graffiti. He also realised that what you do with photos is important. From this thought, JR developed socially critical projects on a larger scale and on an international level.
JR: Chronicles Cooperation with Kunsthalle München until January 2023
From 26 August 2022 to 15 January 2023, the Kunsthalle München exhibited with JR: Chronicles the largest retrospective of the French artist JR (*1983) in Germany to date. His exhibition venues are actually the streets of this world. There he also attracts the attention of those who otherwise do not visit museums. JR became famous for his photographs of unknown people, some of which are monumental in size, which he places on the fronts of houses, trains, container ships or border walls. The focus is often on people whose dignity and rights are ignored. With his art, JR gives them visibility in a way that is as perceptive as it is sensitive.
With the help of selected photographs, videos, models and large-scale posters (pastings), the multimedia exhibition made it possible to experience JR's projects, which were only intended to last for a limited period of time, once again. (Text: Kunsthalle Munich)
For the retrospective, the two famous JR works "Mr. Ma" and "Brandenburg Gate" temporarily on loan to the Kunsthalle Munich.
"Brandenburg Gate" from JR`s Giants project series
JR's works revolve around walls. Walls that slowly crumble and are destroyed. But also walls that people build up, be it from materials like stone and concrete, as well as in their heads. The theme of the opening of the Berlin Wall also became part of his project "Giants". In September 2018, JR created a huge collage for the German bank holidays celebrating reunification on 3 October 1990. He covered the Brandenburg Gate with archive photos by Iris Hesse from the night the Wall fell in November 1989. The installation showed jubilant Berliners on the Wall, observed by border guards standing in front of them. The word "Freedom" occupies a central position and can be seen in capital letters in the middle.
JR IN THE "25 YEARS" EXHIBITION AT MUCA MUNICH
At MUCA, the anniversary exhibition (06.10.2022 - 10.09.2023) included a photograph on the project series "Women are heroes" as well as "Brandenburg Gate" (this work was also on loan from MUCA in the JR retrospective at the Kunsthalle).
JR's best-known projects
With Inside Out, artist JR entered a new phase in 2011: he moved away from creating and installing his own photographs and, driven by the question: "Can art change the world?", developed the vision of a global participation project.
About the website www.insideoutproject.net over 445,000 interested individuals and groups from 138 countries have participated in the project to date. Each participant submits his/her portrait to JR's Studio. The portraits are printed out in large format as posters and sent back to the participants. They, in turn, place the prints in locations within their community as a so-called "pasting action".
With this project, JR wants to give everyone the opportunity to share their personal statement, transported by a photo, with the world. The actions continue to be documented and exhibited on the website to this day.
First major JR project: "Portrait of a Generation
The first large-scale project, "Portrait of a Generation", was launched by JR in 2005 as a reaction to the riots in Parisian suburbs.To create the project, he produced the short film "Clichés de Ghetto" with friend Ladj Ly. He photographed the funny grimaces of his friends from these districts who ironically played with their presentation in the media. JR hung these portraits in large format in the posh districts. Through the contrast, he moved passers-by to question the media presence of these troublemakers.
Face 2 Face
The action in Paris laid the foundation for JR's further way of working. In 2007, Face 2 Face, his largest illegal exhibition, followed as a reaction to the Middle East conflict. JR took close-up portraits of people from Israel and Palestine who belonged to the same professional group and hung them next to each other in eight cities in Israel and Palestine. Most of the faces had so many similarities that viewers could not tell them apart.
Women Are Heroes
JR brings art to places where there are no museums. This is also the case with his "Women Are Heroes" project, which still adorns the roofs of the Kibera slum in Nairobi and the facades of houses in the poor districts of Rio de Janeiro. With this project, JR wants to draw attention to the central role and value of women in society. He photographed the women in their everyday environment.
The Wrinkles of the City
Since 2008, JR has been presenting the project "The Wrinkles of the City" in different cities around the world, such as Shanghai, Los Angeles or Berlin. The works show large-format photos of people who have experienced life. JR enhances the human "wrinkles" by choosing an architectural setting and backgrounds that also have a "wrinkled" structure. Often his faces look out in black and white from the walls of dilapidated houses or even walls composed of individual stones. The aim of the project: to symbolically put on the walls the history of those who have witnessed the social change and historical transformation of the cities.
JR created the Giants project for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro: A series of monumental photo installations on scaffolding. They did not show the world-famous athletes of the competitions, but lesser-known athletes. JR continued to expand these installations stretched on scaffolding.
JR's projects in Germany
In 2013, JR realised his project "Wrinkles of the City" on the walls of Berlin, often on station buildings or large old industrial halls. For example, his "wrinkled" faces look out over the capital from the Warschauer Straße S-Bahn station building or the buildings on the AEG site in Gustav-Meyer-Allee.
As part of a retrospective exhibition on JR at the Frieda Burda Museum, the artist brought the project "Unframed" to the Baden-Baden city space in 2014. For Unframed, he used photos from archives and private photo albums of well-known and unknown photographers. In Baden-Baden, he thematises Franco-German history and friendship in his public works.
For the three-day civic festival on the occasion of German Unity Day 2018, JR designed the Brandenburg Gate with a huge photo installation as part of his "Giants" project.
Further projects worldwide
JR's work has also been exhibited at the Louvre and the Palais de Tokyo. In addition to his photographic work, he created his own ballet piece, Les Bosquets, with the New York City Ballet and made several films, including Moments, which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 2018.