The Pantheon is not one of my favorite Paris attractions, but French artist JR may have changed my opinion with his recently installed series of massive collages there in which his signature black and white portraits of everyday people have been pasted on the historical monument’s floor and dome. The project came about through the Centre des Monuments Nationaux, which commissioned JR to create a participatory work inspired by his INSIDE OUT project, thereby encapsulating the humanistic and universal values embodied by the Panthèon.
The INSIDE OUT project was originally suggested by JR in a speech during a TED conference in 2011, the proposal eventually won him the prestigious TED Prize together with a grant to help him realize his dream. Since then, he has produced over 200,000 portraits of people from around the world and has pasted many of them in public spaces as a way to promote ideas and awareness about social and political issues.
For the INSIDE OUT “AuPanthèon” project, JR used portraits of people from all overFrance whichwere collected through his Photo Booth truck. The truck traveled to nine different locations across the country during March 2014, giving people the opportunity to have their portrait taken. People were also given the opportunity to submit their own portraits by uploading them onto the project’s website. As a result, people from all regions of France have now become (if only temporarily) part of the ‘pantheon’ of the famous French citizens who have shaped their nation’s history.
Built between 1764 and 1790, the Panthèon was originally a church dedicated to Saint Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris, before it was transformed into a mausoleum for distinguished French citizens, such as Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola and Marie Curie. The Pantheon is currently undergoing a massive restoration, with the main focus on repairing the triple dome and its supporting structures.
JR’s “Au Pantheon” will be on display until October 5, 2014.