On August 12, 2010, Lek and Sowat found an abandoned supermarket in the north of Paris. For a year, in secret, both artists continuously wandered in this 430,000 sq ft monument to paint murals and organize an illegal artistic residency, inviting forty-six French graffiti artists to collaborate, from the first to the last generation of the graffiti movement.
Together they built a Mausoleum, a temple dedicated to their disappearing underground culture, slowly being replaced by street art and its global pop aesthetics. This could be the most visually intense graffiti project to date. Sometimes site specific graffiti can only be appreciated in person, as a phenomenological experience. Decayed and hollowed out buildings allow for graffiti writers to flow their pieces through the unique composition of the layout like an art installation, this is usually something very hard to capture on camera. Sowat and Kan did an excellent job conveying the experience of exploring this massive urban ruin transformed into an underground graffiti museum. We have reported on how the The Underbelly Project worked toward similar goals, displaying urban art in a more natural habitat. What makes Mausolee different, is the fact that it emphasizes working only with ‘graffiti writers’ and not ‘street artists’. Mausolee shows the full potential graffiti writers have to change the perspective of free wall space.
One of the most successful examples of this is Katre’s mural lit by candle light. All 46 writers included in the project truly amazed us with each abstract and futuristic concept. Hopefully we can see more outside the box projects like Mausolee and the Underbelly Project in the future, really pushing the envelope of the methods of display of graffiti as an artform, while keeping the cultures true illegal nature intact.
The Mausolee project was documented in full detail and packed into a neatly designed book you can pick up today at Editions Alternatives. Scroll down to check out some of our favorite pulls from the book and video.