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Cartier Foundation Launches Graffiti Exhibition

Graffiti, apparently, is no longer for slackers. In the past two years, the formerly disregarded urban art has been granted gallery exhibitions around the world and seemingly elevated to cult status amongst contemporary art aficionados. And now, the Cartier Foundation in Paris has joined the ranks of premier institutions hosting shows when it launches “Born in the Street” next Tuesday.

A six-month long retrospective, the exhibition will take up the entire 12,00-square-foot space, divided between two floors, the facade, and the surrounding garden. Focusing on the birth of graffiti in New York in the 1970s as well as its journey to an art market and media world phenomenon of the 1980s, the presentation hopes to demonstrate the vitality and importance of the movement – how graffiti artists appropriated public space, transformed urban environments, and paved the way for future site-specific works.

Showcasing photographs, films, and sketches, “Born in the Street” not only gives a historic look at the culture, but also details painting techniques, new paint blends, and the use of “blackbooks” in which taggers sketched designs before spraying them on subway cars. Photographs include those by Jon Naar, who collaborated with Norman Mailer on a 1974 graffiti documentary, “Faith of Graffiti,” and the graffiti “bible” titled “Style Wars” by Henry Chalfant.

And graffiti, according to the Cartier Foundation, should still be highlighted today – the exhibition also displays a selection of site-specific works from current French street artists. It provides an sense a closure to the retrospective, as viewers can see firsthand how graffiti has transformed as a medium as well as the cultural influence it has imparted on cities around the world.

“Born in the Street” runs through November 29, 2009, at the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art in Paris. Visit fondation.cartier.com.