"the biggest action we`ve ever done": JR unveils the opening mural for his solo show in turin

Designboom_ French artist and photographer JR debuted his first Italian solo exhibition, ‘Déplacé∙e∙s’, in Turin on February 7th, 2023, with a collective performance depicting his murals of displaced children in crisis zones. Taking to Instagram,the artist writes: ‘Today in Turino for the first time ever we reunited the 5 processions in one place at the same time. The 5 refugees kids we met in Ukraine, Mauritania, Rwanda, Colombia and Greece can finally be together to organize this great action with more than 1400 participants … this project is called Déplacé.e.s and the show opens tomorrow @gallerieditalia.’

Launching at Gallerie d’Italia, the official show will cover 4,000 sqm and feature JR’s different artistic expressions. Together, the exhibited works will shed light on present-day reality and provoke reflections on humanitarian crises worldwide. The event will run from February 9th, 2023, to July 16th, 2023 — with the pre-opening performance launched on February 7th.

Starting from the Parisian banlieue more than twenty years ago, JR has introduced his art to every corner of the world — namely, monumental public interventions and performances that encourage community interaction and participation. From the Brazilian favelas to a maximum security prison in California, from the Pyramide of the Louvre to the Egyptian pyramids, from the border between Israel and Palestine to that between Mexico and the United States, the artist never fails to address the atrocities and fragilities witnessed by families and children globally.

In light of that, JR has put together the ‘Déplacé∙e∙s’ exhibition in Turin with the help of the Compagnia di San Paolo Foundation and curator Arturo Galansino, to investigate the reality of refugees displaced and impacted by war, famine, and natural disasters.

Indeed, the problem of migrants and refugees has long been part of his artistic investigation. With the ‘Déplacé∙e∙s’ project kickstarted in 2022, the artist has traveled to crisis zones, from war-torn Ukraine to the endless refugee camps of Mugombwa in Rwanda, of Mbera in Mauritania, of Cùcuta in Colombia and of Lesbos in Greece, to reflect on the difficult conditions in which thousands of people find themselves today. But, more importantly, his interventions always seek to involve these marginalized communities to promote freedom, imagination, creativity, and participation.

‘Although ephemeral, JR’s art creates an impact on society and the world in which we live. It is made for people and is made with people, revealing the importance of our individual and collective role to improve the present and to try to answer a central question for the artist: can art change the world?’ writes Gallerie d’Italia.

The Instagram video posted by JR on February 7th shows hundreds of volunteers carrying five mega-scale banners to Turin’s Piazza San Carlo. Together, in joyful harmony, the volunteers moved the artworks to the center of the square, unfolding and draping them over the ground to create the opening mural for ‘Déplacé∙e∙s’.

This collective performance was described by the artist as ‘the biggest action we’ve ever done’. Each banner was individually unveiled in one part of the world but today, thanks to the public’s efforts, all five of them are ‘meeting’ for the first in the square. These canvases depict drone-shot images of the children he met during visits to refugee camps from Rwanda to Greece, some of which will be featured in the exhibition.

The chidlren’s portraits are now part of a mechanical installation at one of Gallerie d’Italia’s exhibit rooms, unfurling as they move upward asynchronously, dwarfing visitors with their monumental size. Another immersive room shows statues of lifesize children running across black sand. The multimedia exhibit further immerses visitors in scenes from refugee camps through 360° video projection. Nations use refugee camps as a means to exclude displaced peoples from their society. The exhibit forces visitors to visit these camps, look refugees in the eye, and grapple with this crisis. It aims to inspire action.