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Times Square was wickedly crowded today, nothing out of the ordinary. But there were more faces in the crowd that usual. Hundreds of black and white posters of peoples faces were pasted all over the corner of 47th Street and 7th Avenue. It looked pretty damn extraordinary.
The spectacle was the brainchild of JR, the French street artist or “photograffeur” as he likes to be called. Touted as “the hippest street artist since Banksy” or sometimes even the Henri Cartier-Bresson of this century, the 30-year-old Parisian, known simply by his two-letter moniker, has been making headlines and raising eyebrows worldwide for his larger-than-life public photo projects. From revolutionary Tunisia and the favelas of Brazil, to the streets of Karachi and the factories industrial Shanghai, to the Israeli-Palestinian border and the Juarez-El Paso border, his work knows no bounds.
This isn’t JR’s first appearance in New York. In 2011, the globetrotting artist pasted giant photos above the Highline and on a few walls in Soho. Then, last summer, he aimed really really high, literally: he found a way to paste the side of a building above the Williamsburg Bridge.
What’s different about his latest New York project is that anybody can participate. Starting this week, JR and his team set up a traveling photo-booth truck smack in the middle of Times Square,where passersby can get their photo taken, wait five minutes for it to print, and then take the poster and paste it where they wish. Brushes and buckets of wheat paste are on hand and ready to go.
The chance to get your photo taken by the nouveau Banksy might be a good reason to rethink avoiding Times Square. Team JR will be at 47th and 7th everyday from noon to 8pm through May 10th. Also look for “Inside Out: The People’s Art Project,” a documentary about JR’s badass work, premiering on HBO May 20th.