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JR: Chronicles Saatchi Gallery Exhibition

One question I always flounder with is “Who do you think the up and coming future stars in street art are?”, like I have any idea about art picking!   The easier question is “Who has emerged?” and if there is one person who can’t be left out of that answer it is French artist JR.   JR: Chronicles at the Saatchi Gallery is a comprehensive examination of JR’s very impressive back catalogue of art on the streets.  Through a succession of rooms a large number of JR’s street projects are reprised, dissected and explained,  the best part of a couple of hours is recommended.

JR: Chronicles Gallery Art by Street Artist JR showing photos of JR's street art and installations

Portrait Of A Generation inside demolished building

JR’s artistic origins were as a not terribly stylish tagger in Paris who chances on a camera, takes some pretty cracking photos in fairly lairy sink estates dotted around Paris, print them out super cheap and pastes them up on the streets. Among the images is one of a young video maker surrounded by local “yoots”, that cameraman is now better known as the award winning director Ladj Ly and just to digress for a moment, watch Ladj Ly’s 2019 “Les Miserables”, it makes a superb companion to this exhibition as a semi fictional and unaffectionate look back to the environment that shaped JR’s early adult life.

JR: Chronicles Gallery Art by Street Artist JR shows photos of JR's street art

JR: Ladj Ly at Les Bosquets

If you haven’t spotted the jarring “trick of the eye” in the Les Bosquets photo, if you find it inexcusably intimidating well you’re not alone, JR tells us that when that photo was pasted on the side of the Tate Modern in 2008, the Director initially refused the image as he thought it was a gun as well.  That was the point, JR was challenging your inclination to jump to racist conclusions.

JR photo of Ladj Li holding camera like a gun at Tate Modern Street Art Exhibition 2008

JR: Tate Modern, 2008

Banksy’s first London exhibition was an un-authorised street take-over in 2001, JR adopted the same tactic in the same year.  His “Expo 2 Rue”, translated as “Sidewalk Gallery”, involved guerrilla pasting his photos on building site hoardings and to add emphasis to his paste ups he sprayed picture frames around the paste ups linked together by straight lines.  JR: Chronicles has a little humorous play with the form of JR’s Expo 2 Rue concept, a blown up photo of an Expo 2 Rue installation incorporates a video screen framed where the paste up was. “Tres droll” he probably wouldn’t say.

JR: Chronicles Gallery Art by Street Artist JR shows photos of JR's street art

JR – Expo 2 Rue

The scale of JR’s achievements transcend the boundary between street art and fine art, appealing as readily to art world snobs as to people who would never normally contemplate attending an art exhibition.  This can perhaps be appreciated by splitting his endeavours into three component parts, vaguely and inadequately summarised (my inadequacy, not the exhibition’s) as Idea, Execution and Documentation.

JR: Chronicles Gallery Art by Street Artist JR shows photos of JR's street art

JR au Louvre et le Secret de la Grande Pyramid

The ideas and concepts are the things that earn JR a place among the giants of contemporary art in the “proper” art world and galleries like Saatchi.  JR has completed a very impressive number of major projects in what is still a comparatively young career.  The hallmark of them all is quality and originality, from his Expo 2 Rue at age 17 to Women Are Heroes and Gun Chronicles by way of Wrinkles Of the City, Portrait of A Generation and more, a mere 7 huge rooms at Saatchi’s Kings Road art palace is barely sufficient.

Gallery Art by Street Artist JR shows photos of JR's street art

JR: Projects

If JR has a secret cellar to which failures are condemned, surely there must be some, it is well hidden.  The execution of them is undoubtedly thoroughly thought through, one of his charming trademarks is corralling local volunteer’s enthusiastic assistance in putting up his large paste up projects.  For those who may have no idea how printed street art can be created on such magnificent scale various display cases, models and prop do great job of lifting the veil on those production secrets.

Work In Progress JR photo of Ladj Li holding camera like a gun at Tate Modern Street Art Exhibition 2008

JR Work In Progress, Tate Modern 2008

How do you print out the images?  They are made from continuous sheets of paper 36 inches wide and in one of the films you see an architect’s printer spewing paper like a long string of spaghetti.  How many sheets?  In one of the vitrines are JR’s working images with the construction lines drawn by hand which divides the image into the stripes for printing and ultimately for putting the strips in the right order,  a laden trolley laden demonstrates how many rolls of paper might go into one of those epic paste ups.

Gallery Art by Street Artist JR shows photos of JR's street art

JR: work in progress

There’s nothing quite so unpredictable as the public which coupled with JR’s “suck it and see” approach to putting up installations in locations where authorities are hostile (Israel, USA border) has given him a wealth of anecdotes which are well with tuning into, you can access his spoken word stories online away from the gallery.  Treat it like a podcast, you can for example access it using the QR code further down this page or it is currently available on youtube.

You might not find the “process” insights interesting, poor you, but scrutiny of those aspects can reveal secrets hidden in plain sight.  The image of a tea party JR arranged to take place through the USA Mexico border fence is well known, JR explains in one of the videos that on the Mexican side they sit at a table; on the USA side the party was “guerrilla style” as the artist was denied permission so the party on the American side takes place not on a table but a printed canvas unfurled and passed through from the Mexican side.  My chin dropped.

JR: Migrants, Mayra, Picnic across the Border, Quadrichromie, Tecate, Mexico – USA, 2017

JR’s contact sheets from earlier analogue photography projects are displayed in several vitrines in various rooms.  In the contact sheet of the images of Ladj Ly holding his camera like a gun the famous image is the very first one on the sheet, it captures the ominous energy of the kids surrounding Ladj just at that moment as they clamoured to be in the photo, in the other photos the kids were basically posturing and with the absence of spontaneity the menace becomes cartoonised.

Gallery Art by Street Artist JR shows photos of JR's street art

JR: Portrait Of A Generation Contact Sheet

The third pillar of JR’s enterprise is the element that allows JR to produce stunning books and exhibitions.  It’s the documentation, JR takes brilliant photographs of JR’s photography projects!

Gallery Art by Street Artist JR shows photos of JR's street art

JR: Portrait Of A Generation

JR attributes his trademark hat and glasses to the early need to avoid being identified by a local mayor who wanted to sue him.   He does however explain his art to camera in a comprehensive and articulate way but always in hat and glasses.  For someone so preoccupied with anonymity shyness is not an issue!

street artist JR in front of the Inside Out Travelling Photo Booth

JR and Inside Out photo booth at Somerset House, 2013

JR does not sign his paste ups though sometimes the artist is unavoidably present at a microscopic scale, check the reflection in the subject’s eyes in, for example, the Nairobi train!

Gallery Art by Street Artist JR shows photos of JR's street art

JR: Women Are Heroes, Kibera, Kenya

JR’s projects are concerned with humanity, often illustrating the unnecessary impact that boundaries, borders and schisms in society have on humanity, or should that be the impact the unnecessary borders have?  In essence he probes and highlights people’s impact on people.

Child peeps over US Mexico Border by Street Artist JR

GIANTS, Kikito and the Border Patrol, Tecate, Mexico – USA

The humanity becomes a teeming multitude in the Chronicles project, JR photographs up to a 1,000 people in basically the way they would like to be photographed then collages the individuals into a huge mural.  There is a tendency for the impact to resemble a hyper realistic nightmare or disaster movie.  JR toys with your own interpretations of the evidence of your own eyes, is what you see really a violent disorder, or is it actually a community out playing and dancing?

Gallery Art by Street Artist JR shows photos of JR's street art

JR: Chronicles de Clichy-Montfermeil (detail)

Another thing that the show achieves which you can’t really replicate on a book or in a tiny screen is to impress with the scale and the level of detail in the augmented reality Chronicles.  Download the JR – net app then point your phone at the relevant Chronicles mural causes a pointer to skip from person to person in the mural and through the magic of multi media you can hear that persons’ story as recorded by JR.  Gun Chronicles occupies the whole of a large wall and incorporates 245 different viewpoints on the gun issue.  JR avoids casting judgement, pro and anti Right To Carry folk are included and your reaction to the arguments tells you all you need to know about yourself rather than the issue.  Good luck on completing the dive into the stories of all 1,128 citizens in The Chronicles Of New York City!

Gallery Art by Street Artist JR shows photos of JR's street art

JR: Chronicles Of New York

The opening of JR: Chronicles in June was accompanied by another iteration in several London locations of JR’s Inside Out project.  This manifests as a travelling photo booth in a van modified to look like a polaroid camera where, after a long queue, your photo is taken and printed out on a large sheet and pasted on the ground like a massive outdoor version of a school yearbook if you went to that kind of school, not me!

Street Art Tour Guide Dave Stuart from Shoreditch Street Art Tours participates in JR's Inside Out photography project at Somerset House London 2013

JR Inside Out Project, Somerset House 2013

The same van stars in JR’s film “Faces Places” made with the acclaimed French director the acclaimed late Agnes Varda (click HERE for trailer).

Tour Guide Dave Stuart collects photo from JR's Inside Out photo booth at Somerset House, 2013

The Inside Out photo booth at Somerset House, 2013

That segues us nicely into an appreciation of how JR’s story is really like a street art fairytale.  The promise of street art is that anyone can present their art to a public audience, you don’t need an art degree, critical approval or gallery acceptance, you create your own art world by placing your art on the streets.  Direct from you the artist to the consumer, no middleman necessary.  JR has basically parlayed this circumventing the art system system from untutored photography to hijacking wall space and from there to projects in Israel and Palestine meeting with military disapproval, to exhibitions in posh London galleries and films with the luminati of the film world.  No formal art education or art world blessing required.  Know anyone else who did that?

Gallery Art by Street Artist JR shows photos of JR's street art

JR: Face To Face Contact Sheet

Gallery Art by Street Artist JR shows photos of JR's street art

JR: Face To Face, Separation Wall

One more thing in a show where so much effort has gone into making the artist look effortlessly cool, the QR codes are functioning pieces of art.  No doubt if I ask a young person I will find yet again I am ages, like months behind the times dude.

Gallery Art by Street Artist JR shows photos of JR's street art

QR Code Art (go on, test it)

The show dissects it’s subject into 7 themed zones, in each an idea and to a greater or lesser extent the process is revealed.  The whole show is the manifestation of the third dimension of JR’s activity, the documentation, it really earns that title “Chronicles”.

JR: Chronicles

Saatchi Gallery 4 June – 3 October 2021

Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, London, SW3 4RY

Booking essential: tickets


JR’s website

Graffoto review of JR’s 2015 exhibition “Crossing” at Lazarides Gallery

Photos of JR’s photos of JR’s Photos by Dave Stuart

Street Art, review, 2010s, Graffoto.co.uk, street art tours, tour guide, political street art, Banksy, Cept, EINE, Bambi, subdued, Tom Blackford, CodeFC, Uberfubs, Extinction Rebellion

A Decade Of Political Street Art

The third of our series reflecting on the street art we have enjoyed over the past 10 years looked at the street art that appeared on our streets.

Banksy had a lot to contribute politically over the past decade of course.

Banksy, Brexit, Dover

Much of the art was done without permission though there were the occasional huge campaigning murals.

Dave The Chimp – Education Is Not A Crime

Here is a slide show showing the photos that we pulled out of our archives, the full descriptive text about the political street art is on Graffoto, our other blog

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Street Art, review, 2010s, Graffoto.co.uk, street art tours, tour guide, political street art, Banksy, Cept, EINE, Bambi, subdued, Tom Blackford, CodeFC, Uberfubs, Extinction Rebellion

Banksy – If Graffiti Changed Anything, It Would Be Illegal, London 2011

Part 1 of the Decade 2010 reviews looked at where Street Art was in 2020: here

Part 2 was a look back at spectacular murals: here

All photos: Dave Stuart, principal guide and founder, Shoreditch Street Art Tours


Street Art, review, 2010, Graffoto.co.uk, street art tours, tour guide

10 years After

Can you believe the decade is over?  Our sister blog Graffoto has been looking at street art for the whole of the decade, looking back fondly over what has amazed us, where and how the art was created and by whom.

Street Art, review, 2010, Graffoto.co.uk, street art tours, tour guide

MIghty Mo, Goldpeg

Its going to be a series of thematic blog posts, looking at say murals, sculpture, non permissioned art… and more.  To be honest, until we write it we don’t know what it’s going to cover but it will be great.

Street Art, review, 2010, Graffoto.co.uk, street art tours, tour guide


This isn’t a list of the top 50, or the “best of”, because for starters it is generally based on what we actually experienced but with occasional reference to scene as it developed elsewhere.   It starts with a look at street art in Shoreditch at the start of the decade, just so you can see in the subsequent posts who much things have developed since.

Street Art, review, 2010, Graffoto.co.uk, street art tours, tour guide

Isaac Cordal

The full text supporting each of the images and why they were definitive is including in the Graffoto blog, written by the same author in case you were unsure, here is a slide show of the visuals that defined our landscape back in 2010.

Street Art, review, 2010, Graffoto.co.uk, street art tours, tour guide

Antony Lister

Remember to follow to pick up the full series and do tell your friends.

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Graffoto “The Decade Is Dead, Long Live The Decade

All photos: Dave Stuart

Shoreditch,London,street art,street artists, best of, February, review,Borondo, LovePiepenbrinck, Dee One, Saki, Saki and Bitches

Shoreditch Street Art February Highlights

February was a month of unrelenting street art activity by street artists in Shoreditch, mainly wearing anoraks and wellington  boots.    Most months of the year, my friend HowAboutNo, the guy who has spent the best part of the past 10 years oscillating between wandering streets and alleys exploring street art with me and propping up a bar with me, and I throw together a pictorial review of the months street art with a few pithy words for description.   in February, a month where the elements really tested the longevity of paper based art, with a sculptural slant.  Here are just a small selection of  the highlights, for the full recap it will be worth popping over to our private blog Graffoto

Love Piepenbrinck placed several new fancy dress piggies out on the streets and has teased us with a photo on Facebook caption “Most Hidden Piggy – almost impossible to even photograph”, which we haven’t seen hide nor hair of.

Shoreditch,London,street art,street artists, best of, February, review,Borondo, LovePiepenbrinck, Dee One


Without doubt one of the cleverest and most exciting things we have seen this month, perhaps this year, has been Borondo’s face by the canal on Hackney Wick, already drooled over on this blog here.

Street art,graffiti,London,Shoreditch,walk,tour,Borondo,Spain,Spanish

Dee One’s Heavenly Rejects has been a delightful presence on the Shoreditch streets for about a year, his work such as they devils painted on acorns is often easy to pass by.   One of his most pleasing and most difficult to spot is this aquatic scene.

Shoreditch,London,street art,street artists, best of, February, review,Borondo, LovePiepenbrinck, Dee One

Dee One

Full review of the month on Graffoto.

All photos NoLionsInEngland

Street Art First Impressions by “London Theatre Visits”


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Photo: Patsy Trench, London Theatre Visits

A large part of what Shoreditch Street Art Tours does could be described as evangelism on the part of street art culture.  This post by London Theatre Visits who recently enjoyed a Shoreditch Street Art Tour really captures the fantastic experience an articulate and enquiring visitor fired with curiosity but no prior knowledge gets our Tours.

Thanks Patsy

About London Theatre Visits: Patsy Trench says: ‘I have been arranging tours for overseas visitors for nearly twenty years, and teaching and lecturing in theatre for nearly as long. My tours are put together personally, by me, and can be tailored to suit whatever the customer demands.’

About Shoreditch Street Art Tours:    Shoreditch Street Art Tours provides walking tours of street art and graffiti around the Brick Lane and Shoreditch area.  In addition to daylight walking tours, Shoreditch Street Art Tours also runs small number groups of Night Street Art Photography Tours and Street Art Photography Workshops.  Founder and principal guide Dave aka NoLionsInEngland has been photographing, writing about and critiquing street art for nearly 10 years.


100th Tripadvisor Review Milestone

Woo hooooo – 100 Tripadvisor reviews for Shoreditch Street Art Tours!!!! Thank you very much to all our guests who have shared their love for Shoreditch Street Art Tours on Tripadvisor.

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100 UP!

99 reviewers rated us 5 star “Excellent” and a solitary 4 star “Very Good”  rounds up the century.  We love to read words like passionate, knowledgeble, personable, expert, empathetic, friendly, and enjoyable in our guests opinions.  These are your independent opinions, they matter to other members of the community and they really matter to us.

Once again, thanks to all of our guests for enjoying the world’s best outdoor gallery with Shoreditch Street Art Tours and special thanks to those who shared their positive opinions with the rest of the Tripadviser community, thanks to you guys Shoreditch Street Art Tours is currently ranked 14th best  out of 528 activities in London.

Update (27 Jan) – now ranking 13th (and rising?)


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2013 Street Art Review

Shoreditch Street Art Tours wishes its readers, past guests and future guests a happy, safe and culture filled 2014!

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Dal East

On the Shoreditch Street Art Tours blog we published 74 posts about the street art we saw in 2013, which is rather a lot!   As we look forward to Street Artists in Shoreditch continuing to produce new and exciting working 2014, we thought it would be fun to look back on the brilliant, the colourful and the clever work of 2013.

London,East End,Shoreditch,Street Art,2013, Review,ALO, D*Face

Art Is Trash

Our sister blog Graffoto, written on those days when we need to kick back and chill even more than on our “Shoreditch Street Art Tour” days has a great review of the best of the illegal and non permissioned work in London in 2013, click HERE.

London,East End,Shoreditch,Street Art,2013, Review,ALO, D*Face


There is also a part 2 to the review, published shortly before midnight on New Years Eve, which looks at the bigger and more spectacular mural side of street art, check that out HERE.

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Virtually all the street art, even the pieces out in Hackney (!) photographed in those two reviews was seen on Shoreditch Street Art Tours in 2013!


London,East End,Shoreditch,Street Art,2013, Review,ALO, D*Face


London,East End,Shoreditch,Street Art,2013, Review,ALO, D*Face


All Photos: NoLionsInEngland

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D*Face “One Man And His Dog” Book Review

D*Face has an almost peerless right to be regarded as father to London’s street art scene and guests of Shoreditch Street Art Tours will know that I position him as globally significant.  This great new self penned book lays out clearly the evidence to justify those garlands.

D*Face “One Man And His Dog” Book

  • Hardback
  • 500 colour illustrations
  • 344 pages
  • 290 x 240 mm
  • ISBN 9781780672779
  • Published November 2013
  • Laurence King Publishing Ltd.
  • Weight 1 tonne 😉

There are plenty of stories lifting the curtain on D*Face escapades which make fascinating reading, such as the driver turning up to deposit six 1 tonne poured cement spraycan sculptures around central London tourist spots wearing a German army officer’s hat with plastic doll’s legs sticking out the sides.

Shoreditch,London,Street Art, Street artist,DFace, D*Face,Book,photos,review

Limited Edition boxed version, photo: Laurence King Publishing

The 2010 installation of the Zombie Oscars in Hollywood struck me at the time as one of the ballsiest illegal street piece installations and I am not sure there has been much to challenge that status since.

Shoreditch,London,Street Art, Street artist,DFace, D*Face,Book,photos,review

Zombie Oscar, Mels Dinner

Few of the revelations are quite as astonishing as what D*Face’s wife carved in ice on a 2006 trip to the Arctic circle but you’ll have to read the book to get that little nugget!

Banksy is eventually mentioned as a friend, partner and collaborator though one gets the impression that D*Face remains a little sore at Banksy’s sudden universal withdrawal from social contact in 2007.

There is a revealing anecdote regarding a war dividend painting he did on a building site hoarding which featured a collage of corporate logos of companies profiteering by securing privileged post war access into Iraq.   An advertising agency who claimed to like D*Face’s work were a bit put out at their client’s logos being corrupted in this way, so their course of action options were Plan A follow a due process, engage lawyers, issue cease and desist letters, follow up with compliance and enforcement notices etc, or plan B, send down a young girl on an internship with a roller and a bucket of paint and have her paint  it out.   D*Face’s self confessed anger overwhelms any admiration of the ironic “do it yourself” punk approach the agency adopted!

“I thrive on the visual, ephemeral feast that surrounds us City dwellers, from the overlaid and torn flyposters to the tagged doorways, the jammed rotating billboards displaying parts of two adverts at the same time and the chopping of sounds I hear while cycling through traffic.  I am naturally drawn to my visual environment.”

At several points we get a sense of the inherent conflicts of being a street artist, a gallery artist and a gallery owner, particularly where it comes to relationships with the law!  In 2008 I was intrigued by D*Face’s switch to showing with Black Rat press and in the book we now learn that showing with an outside gallery frees D*Face to concentrate on producing the art and secondly, Black rat offered a step enhancement in screen printing refinement above and beyond what had become the Pictures on Walls standard in-house product.  The resulting “aPOPcalypse Now” was a stunning show that I found simultaneously mesmerising and disorientating (pics here).

Shoreditch,London,Street Art, Street artist,DFace, D*Face,Book,photos,review

Having said the book reveals all, there are perhaps a few things curiously overlooked.  Apart from a note in the shouts at the back I didn’t find any mention of the 2003 Finders Keepers exploits.  I’m going to extrapolate, infer and guess a bit here but Finders Keepers was about the punk do-it-yourself approach, some of the key Finders keepers members have recently shown with Stolen Space and appear to be still in touch with D*Face, others plough a far more independent, righteous and outside-the-system furrow quite distant from the path D*Face has followed, so perhaps there is some breakdown of the old intente cordial there.

There is even a full page sticker kit, I wonder if anyone will ever be mad enough to remove the stickers..just keep the book out of the hands of 5 year olds.

Shoreditch,London,Street Art, Street artist,DFace, D*Face,Book,photos,review

In among all the material which revives memories for me of stuff I lived and experienced as a fan looking in from the outside, I was surprised to find strands to D*Face’s work which I have no recollection of, such as the butterflies and insects which are clearly influenced by Damien Hirst.

“Trying to explain to US border police why you have an industrial drill with you for a holiday is no easy task,”

If you like the work of d*Face or have found this review interesting, you might like to do a little time travel and see a bit of previous stuff written by NoLionsInEngland (ok…yes, that’s me too!) on the door closing 2013 solo show at the old Stolen Space premises a,d, as noted before a small number of my flicks from the 2008 aPOPcalypse show are here.

This is a large and heavy book, there are hundreds and hundreds of fascinating photos in there of both outdoor and indoor work.  Clear some shelf space and pick up a great read.

Book text copyright: Dean Stockton

Book photos copyright: as stated in the book

Publisher link: http://www.laurenceking.com/en/the-art-of-d-face-one-man-and-his-dog

Photos NoLionsinengland except where noted

PS – stickers photographer’s own 😉

Another Satisfied Customer

At Shoreditch Street Art Tours our total commitment is to give every guest a fantastic insight to the street art, the culture, the artists, the techniques and the history of the scene in Shoreditch.  It works, clearly, ranking as a Top 20 London activity out of 502 on Tripadvisor does not lie!

One pair of guests from earlier this month have kindly taken the time and trouble to express their delight and satisfaction with their tour experience in a post on their blog, I think you should look at and enjoy the words of Rosie at Storm Brand Design, thanks Rosie and Rob.

Here is a selection of art on the particular route around Shoreditch that Rosie and Rob took with Shoreditch Street Art Tours.

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