JR is a French contemporary street artist and photographer with a focus on addressing local political conflicts through his work, which is prominently displayed in public spaces and cities around the world. A man routinely touted as the hippest street artist since Banksy, his work has sold at Sotheby's and been plastered 100ft high on the wall of Tate Modern. JR is an artist who prides himself on operating under the radar by concealing his identity and he creates dazzling installations in unexpected places through the force of his personality and vision.
Works and Achievements
His first project Portrait of a Generation was inspired by his experience of the 2004 riots in the banlieues (social housing suburbs) of Paris, through which he orchestrated huge portraits of the participants to be exhibited around the City. Initially an illegal project, his work gained significance following commissioning from the mayor of Paris. This approach, which humanized a largely immigrant populace that the government had previously officially termed "scum," has become JR's trademark. In 2007, he pasted portraits of Arabs and Jews on walls throughout Israel and the West Bank for the project Face2Face, and in 2008, after the government-involved murder of three young men in Rio de Janeiro's disenfranchised Morro da Providência favela led to riots, he plastered enormous pictures of the eyes of the community's women (including relatives of the dead youths) on buildings looking down into the city for Women Are Heroes.
After winning the 2011 TED prize, JR inverted his practice for the project Inside Out, inviting people around the globe to send him photographs of themselves that he would then print out at large scale and send back to them to mount publicly. Participants have ranged from North Dakota's Lakota tribe to the revolutionary Tunisian protesters. Represented in Paris by Emmanuel Perrotin, JR was invited to create a giant photo booth at the Centre Pompidou, and in 2010 his film of the Woman Are Heroes project was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. "The fact that art cannot change things makes it a neutral place for exchanges and discussions, and then enables it to change the world," the artist has said. "What is most fascinating to me is involvement."
Artist As a Manager
A lot of the key concepts identified by 20th century German artist Joseph Beuys relate to JR’s principles. They both believe that “Every human being is an artist”, JR’s 2011 project INSIDE OUT aims to “give everyone the opportunity to share their portrait and make a statement for what they stand for. It is a global platform for people to share their untold stories and transform messages of personal identity into works of public art.” (http://www.insideoutproject.net/en/about)
Interview with JR – Stefano Stoll
Foam Magazine Issue #29 p.15
Reckhenrich, J., Kupp, M., & Anderson, J. (2009) discuss the three core concepts of managing creativity.
As JR views himself as an artist his inspiration, intuition and imagination is the driving force behind his distinct practices. However these are structured and processed with the appropriate materials so that he is able to remain self-funded and his methods involve participation on a global scale. He certainly believes in the premise that ‘different perspectives construct the image’.
Artist as A Leader
Caust, J. (2008) points out the cultural clash between business priorities of boards/governance and the vision of artist leaders. As JR is self-funded he is able to focus on his vision and lead in a way that does not restrict his creative capacities. He is not influenced by sponsors and has no accountabilities to funders.
Cray, D. Inglis, L. & Freeman, S. (2007) highlight four leadership styles specific to the arts sector. It could be perceived that JR falls under all four categories. He is charismatic in the sense that his personality ‘has profound effects on his followers’ and ‘he has a strong conviction in the righteousness of his beliefs’. He has hundreds of volunteers and followers around the world who support his mission. JR is also a transactional leader; he ‘provides resources and support in return for effort on the part of his followers’ and volunteers. He is transformational as he ‘motivates followers by articulating a vision for the future’ and he considers their individual needs and purposes. Finally, he is of course participatory in his methods; his followers are involved in decisions through consultations and meetings.
Questions for discussion
· What are the limitations/issues involved in the aforementioned concepts?
· How practical is it to implement these different concepts?
· How can other artists/organisations learn from JR’s practices?