Currently at the Howard Griffin Gallery in Shoreditch, the popular French artist Thierry Noir has returned to London for his first solo show, ‘Thierry Noir: A Retrospective’ having previously visited the city the year before to add a number of works to London walls.
Noir was the first artist to illegally paint miles of the Berlin Wall, born in 1958 in Lyon in France, he moved to Berlin in 1982 settling into a squat overlooking the wall at the border of East and West. One day in 1984 he decided to start painting and continued to do so for the next five years using whatever paint he could salvage from nearly construction sites. Speaking about his thought process at the time Noir said “I did nothing but react to its sadness”, he wanted to demystify the wall.
Noir had wanted to perform one real revolutionary act: to paint the Wall, to transform it, to make it ridiculous, and ultimately to help destroy it. It was a series of acts that would go on to make the bright, seemingly innocent works of Noir, world famous as he openly used his art to mock the status quo. At the time in order to survive he would earn money by selling small paintings on cardboard to people in restaurants.
When the Berlin Wall finally fell in 1989, the East German government auctioned off Noir’s original Wall pieces in Monte Carlo with Sotheby’s. These artefacts sold for millions and found their way into important public and private collections all around the world. Noir received no money at the time from the proceeds of this sale. Today he is seen as one of the forerunners of the modern street art scene and judging by some of the prices of the works hanging in the gallery, he is becoming sought after indeed.
Given his reputation it is perhaps suprising that it is only now, 30 years on from when he started to paint the wall he is having his first solo exhibition. It comes on the back of further successful shows at the Howard Griffin which is gaining reputation for innovation in the field of showcasing urban art.
The gallery itself has transformed itself in order to pay homage to the environment in which Noir made his name. A breezeblock wall has been built inside on which to hang the works and scattered around the gallery are piles of rubble and building material in a seeming attempt to recreate 80’s East Germany. It’s a show worth seeing and, as ever with the Howard Griffin Gallery, they’ve made it into an experience.
Thierry Noir: A retrospective runs from 3 April 2014 to 9th May 2014 at the Howard Griffin Gallery situated at 189 Shoreditch High Street in London.
Thierry Noir Gallery