La Pinacothèque celebrates pressionism

Until September 13


La Pinacothèque de Paris gives us the opportunity to discover graffiti on canvas through nearly one hundred paintings by the most important pressionist artists like Bando, Futura 2000, Dondi or even Phase 2. You may - finally- apprehend the particularities of this genuine artistic movement that mainstream art history often denigrates as “street art”.

By Alexis Pierçon-Gnezda / Translate by George Vorniotakis

Pressionism - a new term coined from the union of “pressure art” and the suffix “-ism” making reference to the idea of an art movement - born in the United States in the beginning of the 1970s with the invention of spray paint, the new “spatial paintbrush”. Thus, pressionism clearly distinguishes itself from tagging: not taking place in the street but in studios it is evidently not simply an artist’s signature but graffiti on canvas. It is about encircling letters with colors in order to form a text or a signature. The artwork of the first “painters-writers”, known as the “Writers”, consists thus of sequences of letters filled in with colors.


This technique requires about five years of studying, in streets, warehouses and then in studios. While today graffiti on canvas is open to use traditional media such as gouache or acrylics, most of the artworks on display are painted with sprays. This fact thus requires a certain dexterity since colors cannot be mixed and pressionist artists are limited to the use of primary colors. It is therefore a calligraphic technique, highly codified, reminiscent to some extent of traditional illumination. One of the pieces in the show by Rammellzee, for example, is a clear tribute to medieval writing. 


While the 20th century dealt with the progressive disappearance of art movement “schools” in favor of emerging pure artistic individualities, pressionist artists have felt drawn to join up into groups. Such groups frequently contested among themselves for the much coveted title of “King”, in terms of being the most creative group. Eventually in 1972 in New York, the sociologist Hugo Martinez established the UGA (Union of Graffiti Artists). He provided the graffiti artists with an art studio and offered them visibility by presenting their artworks in the galleries of New York City.


It was not until 1984 that France saw the arrival of pressionism thanks to Bando who transformed his private Parisian mansion in Saint-Germain-des-Près into a Mecca of graffiti art. He was also instrumental in developing an abandoned site known as ‘’Stalingrad” where many European and American artists are still gathering. The first French pressionist school was then founded joining together Bando, Ash, Jay or Skki. Jack Lang, Minister of Culture at that time, invited them in 1991 to exhibit in the Museum of French Monuments.


This exhibition of the Pinacothèque is suggesting a retrospective of the beginnings of this movement, bringing together artworks often considered as part of the underground or primitive movements, and thus without true artistic value. This is why you may read in the beginning of the exhibition:


“For more than half a century, the art market and its speculative logic alloyed with the social stupidity of the cultural world, only allowed the birth of individual artists infected by their own ambition of finding the magic potion that will create a buzz for them. [...] The idea of an art movement “School” had vanished along with the idea of an art group. So when a group of rebels started showing up in the 1970s, battling the establishment by using an unorthodox artistic language, they were quickly labeled “junkie gangs”. No one at the time foresaw the emergence of these hidden talents”.



Adress: Pinacothèque 1 – 28, Place de la Madeleine – 75008 PARIS


Metro: Lines 8, 12, 14 – Stop Madeleine

Bus: Lines 24, 42, 52, 84, 94 stop Madeleine – Lines 24, 42 stop Madeleine-Vignon

Vélib: Station n°8004 opposite 4, Boulevard Malesherbes – Station n°9034 4, Rue Godot de Mauroy – Station n°8005 4, Place de la Madeleine

Parking: Madeleine Tronchet Vinci – Rue Chauveau-Lagarde – Rue Caumartin

Fees: 13€ full / 11€ reduced

Opening hours: Daily from 10:30am to 6:30pm – Late openings on Wednesdays and Fridays until 8:30pm

Until September 13, 2015


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