In the basement of the Palais de Tokyo world-renowned street artists, JR and Os Gemeos, have collaborated as part of the museum’s Lasco Project, which encourages graffiti artists to use its basement as a blank canvas to explore themes of “urban violence, inner demons, social tension, the political weight of walls, and the history of graffiti itself.”
JR is relatively anonymous, and notorious for the flyposting often-huge copies of his black and white photographs on walls, roofs and bridges in France, Brazil, The Middle East (and The Tate Modern in 2008). Os Gemeos, Portuguese for ‘The Twins’, is comprised of brothers Gustavo and Otavio Pandolfo – who are famed for their enormous, colourful murals of usually yellow-coloured characters, painted on cities all over the world. The trio have collaborated before in 2015, creating a mural fusing their two styles on a building in New York’s Lower East Side.
During the Nazi occupation of Paris the basement of the museum was used by the Nazis to hide stolen pianos. The Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) was in operation throughout Europe, with the aim of appropriate cultural property for the enrichment of the Third Reich. The division of the ERR who stole pianos and other musical instruments was called the Sonderstab Musik, which seized over 8,000 pianos between 1940-44. After Paris’ liberation in 1944, over 2,000 pianos were found in the basement of the Palais de Tokyo.
The theme of stolen pianos was one Os Gemeos and JR ran with for their underground works. The murals posted on Instagram show dispirited figures drawn in Os Gemeos’ signature style playing, and mourning, at the grand pianos portrayed in JR’s trademark black-and-white photography, on the derelict walls of the museum’s basement.
The announcement of the collaboration was also underground, with no official press release; the announcement of their collaboration was made on their (and Cara Delevigne’s) Instagram accounts.
Their creations, which took two days to make, will not be visible or accessible to the public due to “safety reasons”, but as JR said on his instagram “It will stay there forever”, to forever remind us of what happened down there.