April 15, 2021 (London, UK) – This June, Saatchi Gallery presents JR: Chronicles – the largest solo museum exhibition to date of the internationally recognised French artist JR, featuring some of his most iconic projects from the past fifteen years. This exhibition will be presented at London’s Saatchi Gallery from 4th June to 3rd October 2021, with pre-sale tickets released 10am today.
Saatchi Gallery is collaborating with the Brooklyn Museum, with their shared aim to provide public access to contemporary art and support social engagement, for the renowned artist JR’s first major exhibition in the UK. Curated by Sharon Matt Atkins and Drew Sawyer from the Brooklyn Museum, JR: Chronicles traces JR’s career from his early documentation of graffiti artists as a teenager in Paris, to his large-scale architectural interventions in cities worldwide, to his recent digitally collaged murals that create collective portraits of diverse publics.
Saatchi Gallery is delighted to showcase the expanded London presentation of JR: Chronicles following its success in New York City. The additional recent projects featured in JR: Chronicles includes The Secret of the Great Pyramid (2019), JR’s large-scale collaborative piece created in occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Louvre Pyramid, and Tehachapi (2019) which follows JR’s experiences with inmates of 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. The exhibition opens in London during a key moment in time in which social engagement and the power of communities have taken centre-stage in London and around the world,” adds Laura Uccello, Partnerships Director at Saatchi Gallery.
JR is a TED Prize winner, Oscar nominated filmmaker, and one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2018. He has received critical acclaim for his global art projects that bring together diverse groups of participants and create dialogue around critical social issues, from women’s rights to immigration, to gun control. JR spotlights communities across the world by photographing individual members of those communities and then wheat pasting their images—sometimes illegally—on a monumental scale usually reserved for advertisements featuring models, celebrities, and politicians. These installations are deliberately placed in public spaces near or within the communities with whom JR has partnered, allowing the individuals portrayed to remain at the centre of the discussions prompted by the artist’s work.
The first section of the exhibition traces JR’s artistic evolution, focusing on his commitment to community, collaboration, and civic discourse. Early photographic projects are featured, including Expo 2 Rue (2001–4), where he documented and pasted photocopies of his community of graffiti artists in action, using the streets as an open gallery. Portrait of a Generation (2004–6) features portraits of young people from Les Bosquets, a housing project in the Parisian suburb of Montfermeil that became a central location for countrywide riots in 2005 amid rising socioeconomic and police tensions. JR and his friend Ladj Ly, a filmmaker and resident of Les Bosquets, worked with the community to capture portraits and then wheat pasted the images both in Montfermeil and throughout Paris. By bringing the faces of young people from the projects to prominence, JR and his collaborators brought attention to the misrepresentation of these individuals in the media, thereby also challenging the public’s assumptions and biases.
JR expanded his practice and began to travel globally in the mid-2000s. In 2005, he travelled to Israel and Palestine and began a public art project similar to Portrait of a Generation. Face 2 Face (2007) featured giant portrait diptychs of Israelis and Palestinians pasted on either side of the separation wall and in several surrounding towns. The portraits were of pairs of people—one Israeli and one Palestinian—who lived on opposite sides of the wall yet held the same job: teachers, doctors, athletes, artists, and religious leaders; they were displayed side by side, without any signifiers indicating which were Israeli and which were Palestinian. At the time, it was considered the largest illegal photography exhibition ever made in Israel, spanning over eight cities including Bethlehem, Tel Aviv, Ramallah, and Jerusalem. Photographs, videos, and ephemera from the project will be on view.
Other international projects on display include Women Are Heroes (2008–9), which honours the contributions of women to public life by installing large-scale images of their eyes and faces in their own communities, and Inside Out (2011–ongoing), a global participatory art project that enables individuals to take and share their own portraits. The exhibition also features The Wrinkles of the City (2008–15), a multicity project celebrating the oldest members of society and the histories they can tell, installed in cities including Havana and Los Angeles; the film Faces Places (2017), co-directed with French filmmaker Agnès Varda, which follows the two artists as they travel around rural France creating portraits to highlight worker solidarity; and The Gun Chronicles: A Story of America (2018), a video mural that visualises the complex spectrum of views on guns in the United States, including those of gun collectors, hunters, law enforcement officials, shooting victims, emergency room teams that treat victims of mass shootings, and lobbyists for the gun industry.
Through his powerful storytelling abilities, collaboration with and commitment to community, and willingness to question power structures and institutions, JR has re-invented the medium of photography in the twenty-first century. Showcasing photographs, films, and documentation of the artist’s installations, this major exhibition demonstrates how and why JR’s practice has managed to both capture the imagination of audiences worldwide and expand the meaning of public art through participatory projects that give visibility and agency to a broad spectrum of people.