OMG, Who Replaced The Street Ads With Paintings?

What if I told you that an artist is causing havoc in the streets of Paris for stealing advertisements from billboards and leaving images of classical French paintings in their place? “OMG, Who Stole My Ads?” is the recent work of Etienne Lavie and that’s exactly the premise of his guerrilla interventions.

The story broke yesterday afternoon after Levie began posting some of the photos on twitter. A few blogs caught wind of them and the story has been spreading like wildfire since. And how could it not; it has all the necessary ingredients for viral content. Just take a look:

Design Taxi thinks that, “Perhaps the artist would like us to pay more attention to art, which fuels our soul, rather than ads that urge us to buy products.”

Ufunk adds that it’s a nice way to transform the urban landscape.

Dashburst takes a weird nationalistic approach, assuming that these public paintings are “bringing the essence of Paris culture back to the French people and city dwellers and away from the big brands invading the skyline.”

Junk Culture’s take is my favorite, though. They add an artspeak-like curatorial statement to the artwork: “The project challenges the destructive impacts of the advertising industry, getting people to slow down in the midst of their daily routines and simply enjoy the beauty of art.”

But the hilarious reason why these blogs are putting forth their own take on Lavie’s work is because they really don't know what's going on since there’s no concise information on the artist’s own intentions. Instead, when you visit his website, the only artist statement you’ll encounter is this: “Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah artist consciousness blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah Paris blah blah blah blah…” and so on and so forth.

This anonymous artist is cleverly saying nothing while simultaneously telling us everything. You see, Lavie is a cheeky one; he’s playing with us. “Find me (understand me) if you can” seems to be the name of his game. Reading his “blah blah” statement closely, you’ll find hidden words within the text like consciousness, Paris, society, communication, consumerism, street, questions, exhibition, nomadic, Henry David Thoreau, poetry, Andreas Gursky, emotion and obesity. Ah, and he playfully ends it with, “blah blah blah and I mean it.”

So now that you know that, take a look at his photos again:

Plot-twist: the photos are fakes; they’ve been photo-shopped and no guerilla action has been committed in Paris that doesn’t involve sitting in a computer and carefully pasting the paintings onto photographs at just the right frame and the right angle. No, I don’t have proof of this yet; it is mere speculation. (I figured since the other blogs are putting their theories forward, I might as well throw in my own). 

But I mean it. Something about this whole story seems highly unlikely. Perhaps it is the scale of the paintings that he allegedly pastes seamlessly:

Or maybe it’s the way that the colors inside some of the paintings do not match the surrounding shadows and reflections (they all look clean and clear):

Or maybe it’s this: 

The above image is the only photograph showing the alleged artist in the process of pasting his next large-scale work, as if to consciously wanting to give us the proof of his authenticity.

Except there’s one tiny problem. This is the artwork he's pasting on that huge frame:

Image via Wikipedia

It is Antoine Watteau’s “Pierrot,” which isn't quite made for the frame that it is being pasted on—which leads me to believe that he dropped the ball here (maybe even purposefully for someone to notice).

So no, I’m not buying this whole “guerrilla intervention” story. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t like what Lavie is doing. On the contrary, this project fascinates me. It is the doubt of the installations' authenticity that I find captivating. Because even if the billboards were not covered in classical French paintings, he is giving us the possibility to imagine something better: an alternate reality where instead of having advertisements that sell us stuff, we have art that consumes us. Imagine that. That alone is a wonderful vision. 

Article by Jovanny Varela-Ferreyra

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