As for French music and French animated films, France has always been one of the forerunners in the artistic field. Street art is no exception since France is the land of many renowned artists who have broken the codes and inspired the greatest like Banksy or Shepard Fairey (Obey).
To celebrate more than 60 years of street art, we present to you today 10 French Street artists who have and continue to transform the walls of our cities into true works of art.
List of Famous French Street Artists
- Ernest Pignon-Ernest
Full name: Ernest Pignon
Considered by many as the father of street art in France, Ernest Pignon-Ernest filled the walls of the city of Paris decades before street art was recognized as a discipline in its own right. Born on February 23, 1942, the man is a committed artist who has always had at heart to make people think through his works, sometimes poetic and mythological, sometimes political and symbolic.
Originally from the Alpes-Maritimes county, he is part of the generation of artists and poets from Nice in the 1960s. After his first life as an architect, he devoted himself to painting and street art during the 1970s. He then left his native land and went to the capital to spread his ideas on the walls of the city.
- Jef Aérosol
Full name: Jean-François Perroy
A true precursor of street art in France, Jef Aérosol is a stencil artist born in Nantes on January 15, 1957. He is notably known for having realized monumental frescoes in the four corners of the world like the Chuuuut !, square Igor Stravinsky in Paris, or the Sitting Kid on the wall of China.
Unlike many famous French street artists, Jef did not immediately make his passion his career since he was an English teacher for over 20 years. We can find some inspirations from across the Channel in his works. For example, he uses certain aesthetics associated with British rock bands by using mainly sober tones (black, white, and red).
- Blek le rat
Full name: Xavier Prou
Like Ernest Pignon-Ernest, Blek le rat is one of the pioneers of street art in France. Born in 1951 in Paris, the French street artist studied architecture at the Beaux-Arts before launching into graffiti with a friend. They created a collective called Blek le rat, which Xavier kept when he went solo later.
Blek le rat is known for his stencils depicting famous people (Andy Warhol, Lady D…) and for his hijacking of classic works (the Venus de Milo, David of Michelangelo…). Throughout his career, the artist has been keen to distinguish himself from American Street art through works with strong symbolism. This is one of the reasons why Banksy is one of his main inspirations.
- Miss. Tic
Full name: Radhia Aounallah
Rare representative of the female gender in the French street art scene, Radhia Novat, or Miss. Tic, was born on February 20th, 1956, in Paris. Her unique style is recognizable by the recurring character of a sensual woman with dark hair (the artist’s alter-ego) accompanied by a pun or an epigram aimed at proclaiming the freedom of women.
A free woman, Miss. Tic manages through her works to play with stereotypes and to evoke key moments of her life: her break-ups, her heartaches, her foibles, her fantasies… Died on May 22, 2022, following a cancer, she will have left a rich heritage on the walls of the greatest Parisian districts.
- Mr Brainwash
Full name: Thierry Guetta
Born in 1966 in Garges-lès-Gonesse, Thierry Guetta, better known under the pseudonym of Mr Brainwash, is a French graffiti artist who became known for his mural paintings, his paintings but also for the numerous album covers and exhibitions he made during his career.
Cousin of another giant of the field, Invader, Mr Brainwash is known in the field as the most American of French Street artists. Indeed, the graffiti artist has lived in Los Angeles for decades. In 2020, a year after the tragic death of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, Mr Brainwash painted a huge mural of the NBA star and his daughter in their hometown.
- Monsieur Chat
Full name: Thoma Vuille
Monsieur Chat, also spelled M. Chat, is the graphic creation of French street artist Thoma Vuille. First appearing in 1997 in Orleans, this cat is recognizable by his yellow coat and his huge smile, then by his angel wings from 2003.
Often placed in places that at first glance are inaccessible, he can be found on the street corners of the largest cities in France (Paris, Rennes, Nantes, La Rochelle, Saint-Étienne…) but also in the largest cities in the world (New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, Dakar…). Thoma Vuille’s mission is to brighten up the urban landscape and express its humanity.
Full name: Franck Slama
Franck Slama, better known as Invader, is a French street artist who has left his mark on the walls of major international cities. After studying at the School of Fine Arts in Paris, the artist launched into street art, a way for him to “hack the public space” by spreading the streets of a “mosaic virus”.
Passionate about video games, his artistic approach is at the intersection between mosaic and pixel art. He is particularly known for his large-scale artistic project, The Invasion, where he stages monsters straight from the famous game Space Invader. Another particularity of size, Invader remained anonymous throughout his career. He chose to appear masked during his public appearances.
Full name: Christian Guémy
Christian Guémy, also known as C215, is a French street artist born in Bondy in October 1973. He has always been passionate about art and has followed an exceptional academic path, obtaining a master’s degree in history, architectural history, and art history at the Sorbonne University. As an artist, he is best known for his portraits of famous men and women on a variety of canvases, from mailboxes to office chairs to boots.
Last year, C215 was noticed when he went to paint in the heart of Ukraine at war. A way for him to support the Ukrainians and to make the world aware of the tragic events that are happening there. Since February 2023, he exhibits his epic at The French National Assembly and tells his adventures in his book.
Full name: Jean-René (last name unknown)
JR, or Jean-René by his first name, is a French photographer, director, and street art artist from Paris. He took his first steps in street art through graffiti before becoming passionate about photography after finding a camera in the Parisian metro. From then on, he travels around Europe to immortalize the major actors of street art in the 16th century by portraying them in street collages.
Later, he pursued this same project, but with a more humanitarian scope this time, paying tribute to the victims of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or to the great men and women who make things happen in South America. He also made his film debut as a set photographer in the film Sheitan alongside Vincent Cassel.
Full name: Alexandre Monteiro
Alexandre Monteiro, alias Hopare, is one of the most fashionable French street artists of this new generation. Born in 1989, he discovered graffiti during his adolescence in Essonne before being taken under the wing of a talented street artist, Shaka, who passed on to him all his knowledge.
At the age of 20, Hopare worked for an interior designer with whom he learned a lot. From then on, he joined the TSF Crew and focused on experimental 3D graffiti. But his work is not limited to the walls of major cities, he also expresses himself on canvas and exhibits his paintings through exhibitions like his latest in Paris in January 2023.
Your favorite French Street artist has not been included in this list? Don’t hesitate to tell us in the comments.
Finally, if you’re passionate about French Street art, take a look at our article on the best French rap songs of the year 2022 to complete your street culture.
Translated into English by Sacha