French “photograffeur” JR has created a video to document late 2010 urban art project “Wrinkles of the City”, in which huge portraits of Shanghai’s local elderly inhabitants merge with their surrounding landscape. Watch the video below then read on for more on “Wrinkles” in China and other JR projects.

Wrinkles cover Shanghai

In the video, the faces of Shanghai residents can be seen adorning the facades of buildings marked for destruction, the sole remainders in areas where 75 percent of the neighbourhood has already been demolished. Workers are shown pasting up the huge prints on half-collapsed houses, brick walls, a water tower, even boxes in a bicycle carrier. The footage is juxtaposed with clips from the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward and images of the city today.

Wrinkles of the City. Image courtesy of

Wrinkles of the City. Image courtesy of

“Wrinkles of the City” coincided with the 8th Shanghai Biennale (2010) and photographs of the works were shown at Magda Danysz Gallery in The Bund.

JR interviews each person as they are the witnesses of all the changes the city went through. Then these portraits, printed in monumental sizes, are pasted in the very same city in various places that inspire JR and also represent the city heritage. For memory can stumble and fall, disappear any minute as the elder leave us, JR shows us that it is important not to forget what the elder have to pass to the young ones.

-“The Wrinkles of the City by JR” (Magda Danysz Gallery)

The idea, seen by JR as a way to highlight unheard stories of the development of urban centres, was first attempted in Spain, and in early 2011 the artist took the concept to Los Angeles.

News reports used to choose location

JR has been creating street art since the age of 17. His first major project was “Portraits of a Generation” for which the artist took “portraits of young people from the housing projects around Paris.” Since then, his work has appeared in Africa, Israel and parts of Asia.

He chooses his locations after seeing issues arising there on the news and each project takes into account the specific location in which it is undertaken. For example, the huge images of local Kenyan women JR created for “Women are Heroes – Africa” (2008) were made of water-resistant material so that they doubled as rain protectors when pasted on the roofs of houses. When, during the same project, his subjects told him, “We want our stories to travel,” JR pasted their images on the sides and tops of trains.

Pasting on a building in Montfermeil, Paris in 2004. Image from

Pasting on a building in Montfermeil, Paris in 2004. Image from

The city is the best gallery I can imagine. I would never have to produce a book, show it to galleries, let them decide if my work is nice enough to show to people. I would confront it directly with the public, in the streets.


Earlier projects reach Asia

Women Are Heroes poster. Image from

Women Are Heroes poster. Image from

JR recently delved into filmmaking with a release called Women are Heroes, which debuted at Cannes in 2010. The film followed a project by the same name (2008-2009) which saw his work featured on walls and buildings in India, Cambodia, Brazil and Sierra Leone.

For “Women are Heroes”, JR visited remote areas and used photographs of the people there to highlight their specific issues, a working method similar to that seen in “Wrinkles of the City”. Says the artist, “Women are the pillars of that community so we were inspired to create a project where men pay tribute to women by posting their photos.”

New works

Photobooth for Inside Out. Image from

Photobooth for Inside Out. Image from

Recognition for his work peaked this year (2011) when he was awarded the seventh annual $100,000 TED Prize. Past recipients include Bono, Bill Clinton and Jamie Oliver.

Also this year, JR has launched a new global project entitled “Inside Out” for which the artist invites members of the public to upload a portrait to the Inside Out website, which will then be printed and sent back to the participant to paste somewhere in their neighbourhood.

I wish for you to stand up for what you care about by participating in a global art project, and together we’ll turn the world… INSIDE OUT.



Related Topics: European artists, street art, photography, Shanghai venues

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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