Groninger Museum purchases photographic works by artist JR
More than 66.000 people visited the Groninger Museum’s exhibition JR: Chronicles, which closed on Sunday 12 June. After an enthusiastic response from the public, the museum decided to purchase three works by the artist. Thanks in part to the Groninger Museum Salon, three photocollages from JR’s series Chroniques de Clichy-Montfermeil are now in the museum’s permanent collection.
Clichy-Montfermeil is the name of the Paris suburb where JR grew up and began spray-painting graffiti with friends as a teenager. After finding a camera on the metro, he started photographing his comrades’ nocturnal adventures. On 27 October 2005, two teenage boys from his neighbourhood, Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré, died while fleeing police. The incident sparked violent rioting all over France. JR photographed boys from the banlieue and responded to media representations of them with the series Portraits of a Generation. It showed the boys making funny faces and revealing themselves to be full of humour, creativity and ambition in spite of their difficult life circumstances. By showing their faces in a different light, JR responded in a playful way to their biased portrayal in the media.
In 2016, JR, by then a world-famous artist, returned to Clichy-Montfermeil with the filmmaker Ladj Ly. They invited more than 750 local residents to take part in their project, from people who had rioted in 2005 to the district’s mayor. In the resulting work, Chroniques de Clichy Montfermeil, the participants depict the daily struggle of life in the area and the changing urban landscape. Ironically, the same mayor who had once brought charges against JR served as one of the models. The 150m2 mural was exhibited at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris and admired by then-president François Hollande.
The Groninger Museum is proud to be the only museum in the Netherlands to own original work by JR. His art fits into the museum’s collection policy, which has for decades included the purchase of street art (including graffiti) and staged photograph. The three works were studies for the project and now serve as reminders of it. They are based on the first collages JR made for the large mural. Chroniques de Clichy-Montfermeil, Works in Progress #1, #2 and #3 bring together the two areas and together stand as an iconic example of socially engaged art.
The triptych will be unveiled to the public in 2023.