The fine folks at Artsy have managed to give their readers a behind-the-scenes pass of JR‘s New York City studio – “an artists’ commune à la Warhol Factory, where artist friends can sleep if they pay their fare in books. On a rare tour, JR offers insights on a space beautifully overrun by art.”
“JR’s art is omnipresent. Whether on the façade of a building, the back of a truck, or, currently, the streets of Times Square, the world is quite literally his gallery.”
Map: “This was the first piece in the studio actually. When we got here, there was only one printer in the middle of the place, if you can believe it, so I asked Oliver Jeffers, who’s a painter, to make a map. He made it especially for the Inside Out project. This map became the flagship of TED. They used it as their main theme, it was printed all over. It is a piece reflecting the actions happening.”
Tree: “This was the crate of an artwork, a large one—it was so big that my friend Takao was like ‘You know, let me cut it out,’ and he started cutting it into these pieces and he made that tree. The funny thing is, it came because I’m not that familiar with the recycling system here; I don’t know where to throw that stuff away and so we just recycle in-house!”
“The one on the top left here is from North Korea. I went there last year. It’s a handmade print; this one is on canvas and the one on the top right is on paper. You can see all the lines; it’s a lithograph. So I brought them from there. I had to hide them to bring them back because they don’t really let prints get out.
This one in the center is an Os Gêmeos piece. They painted it for my 30th birthday.
Then I had my first museum show this month [at Watari Museum of Contemporary Art in Japan, open through June 2nd] so this is ticket number one, which I had framed.”
“There’s artwork everywhere—inside every room; even in the bathroom. It’s just everywhere!”
“I hate going to restaurants in New York because it’s especially loud, and after spending your days in the streets, you want a quiet dinner place in an environment where you feel comfortable. So we host dinners all the time here, and for every dinner party, we take a photo, we print it during the dinner, and everyone starts drawing. So you would have an Os Gêmeos drawing next to a KAWS, etc. We have make these in large sizes, too. I’ve always been into documentation and really since the beginning, I was documenting everything. I realized this when Alastair [Siddons, director of the recently released Inside Out: The People's Art Project] was making the movie.
A lot of people have [made the comparison between my studio and Andy Warhol’s Factory]. But [I think it's] different because at the Factory it was all around his work, where here I switched it around—it’s around the studio. It used to be my main studio here, but it’s mainly downstairs. And here, you see other artists’ things going all night and, of course, that’s where we print all the Inside Out posters, but it’s kind of become that space where other artists, other friends, can come and work and stay.”
“Each person who sleeps here or who comes and has dinner here, they either leave one book a night or each dinner is one book. It can be a 50-cent book or a 50-dollar book, it doesn’t matter. They have to write an inscription why they chose that book. So this library gets bigger every night. I see it as a collection. Same for the artwork. But it’s the studio collection, so it’s not mine directly, the books are not given to me. I’m just making sure that the collection always stays together.”
“The brushes and squeegee are pretty important to me, as it’s part of the process. Even in my studio in Paris, we frame them in glass. This one traveled quite a few countries. I couldn’t tell you which ones, because normally when they have a wood handle, I can write it on it, so the one in Paris, you can see I used it in Brazil, Kenya, etc. I bring them back from each country; it means they have been in my suitcase for quite a while. This one I took to Cuba, and it became really hard because of the glue I use. It’s very strong, and if I don’t clean it before it dries then it freezes in time, and so that’s why I freeze it there in time.”
“[Art Spiegelman, the creator of graphic novel Maus] told me he had something he wanted to give me. So I went by his studio and he showed me this and I was like, no way! I would sell my house to get this! And then he said, ‘No, I want to give it to you; it’s such a pleasure that it’s going in your place,’ and, and so he wrote in the drawer 1977-2011. He said, ‘Look, I had it for forty years, but this is a 120 years old thing, then when you’ll give it to someone else later, you’ll write on another drawer’.”
Layout of Photos for iPad app: “So we did my website this year, something that you can go into and dig and dig and dig—videos, and there is a map you can click on to get involved [with the Inside Out project]. You just find your location on the map—there are 90,000 points right now—and fill out a form and say you have a wall, and I’ll see your wall, and if I prepare a project for you, you will receive an email to volunteer…. That’s always been the thing with my work—if you want to buy a piece, you can, but if you want to have it too, you can, you know, through your iPad. You can print it; the work is there—it’s in the street, it’s for the people, and if someone wants to put their own signature, their own vision on it, you know I’m fine with that. The app is just a great way to get access to it.
Candy Machines: “I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I just eat sugar. That’s why there’s always candy machines everywhere. I always have candy around me and in my pockets!
Each time I find a vintage candy machine somewhere I just bring it back. Sometimes we spend days restoring a candy machine instead of working on something that is related to the work. But that’s something that’s important.”
“An artist named Tsubasa built this because we needed extra rooms. There’s never enough space, so he took all the wood from some piece that I messed up, as well as doors and stuff, and he made that treehouse. And Takao (who made the tree downstairs) worked with him for while. He’s so passionate. He goes out at night, finds wood, comes back, works. And so he’s made this his house, depending on when other people are staying in it.”
Photo Booth: “Inside Out Photo Booth is a completely different process because it’s in the street, like in Times Square right now, or in other countries or in museums. It has been in many places. This photo booth, though, is for when you enter the studio. I have the same one at my studio in Paris. I don’t have an artist’s studio where collectors visit. I don’t work this way, I don’t sell at the studio, so I basically receive friends, artists who come by; there’s a whole energy here. This is where we all meet, we work at day and at night, and so I love to capture that. I love to document that. This photo booth will shoot every person that comes in and out—you, the FedEx guy, the UPS delivery man, the cleaning lady, the guy who got to the wrong doorbell; basically everyone leaves with their huge portraits. The poster prints in four seconds and then they take it with them. If they leave it, I take it to them. I want them to have it, it’s not a copy for me. Then I have this screen that’s going, and each time I leave the building, I basically see people’s faces. I like that. Because that’s life.”
JR - 28 Millimètres, Women are Heroes – Action in Phnom Penh, Peng Panh, 2011
JR - 28 Millimètres, Women Are Heroes – In Kibera Slum, train passage 1, 2010
All info and images: © artsy.net
JR’s New York City Studio - tour by Artsy