French street artist JR pledged to “Use art to turn the world inside out,” pasting massive black and white photos on buildings around the world. Next on his list is Washington: He’ll be installing a building-sized photograph at 1401 T St. NW on Oct. 9 and 10.
Contemporary Wing, a 14th Street gallery founded by Lauren Gentile, is bringing JR to town to complete a giant civil rights-themed installation on the corner building. A 2011 TED prize winner for his art, JR rarely works in America — he’s completed murals at the High Line in New York, and in Los Angeles, but usually works throughout Europe, Asia and South America. Iit will be his first project in Washington. He’ll be featuring a photograph by Civil Rights movement photographer Ernest Withers, of the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike of 1968.
“One of the things he wanted was a diverse neighboorhood and a wall that was very visual, and obviously as big as possible,” said Gentile. ”After seeing the mock-up, it’s a perfect location for the image that he’s using. It will feel like these people in the image are on 14th and T. It’s going to feel like you’re experiencing a historical event.”
Gentile said that she pursued JR after watching his enormously popular TED talk. Though he installs work both legally and illegally, this mural will be installed with permission from the building’s owner, art benefactor Lori Graham, a designer with whom Contemporary Wing shares a building.
For his “Inside Out” project, which won him $100,000 in TED prize money, JR encourages people to upload black and white images that display personal identity to his site. He enlarges each submission and sends each participant posters of their image to install in their communities. However, this installation will be part of the artist’s “Unframed” series, which features the work of famous photographers.
Gentile often works with street artists: During the last election cycle, when she worked for Irvine Contemporary, she helped bring Shepard Fairey to D.C. to install his famous Obama murals on 14th Street.
“We have a huge election coming up, and if you want to make a statement, where else to make it than the capital?” she said.