More than 1,000 people help artist JR hold up giant images of refugee children for Turin performance


The French artist JR has carried out another audacious public art performance, this time on the streets of Turin in Italy. Earlier today, more than 1,200 people carried five large canvases depicting images of children seeking refuge or living in refugee camps worldwide into Piazza San Carlo in the centre of the northern Italian city.

Last year JR unveiled the vast canvases as part of his DÉPLACÉ·E·S project, travelling to locations such as Ukraine, Rwanda and Colombia. “For each installation, JR and his team travelled to a place where families were seeking refuge due to war, climate change, or social instability. There, with the help of the community, they unfurled an image of a refugee child on a 45-meter-long tarp,” an online statement says.

Participants include Valeriia who had crossed with her family into Poland following the Russian invasion of Ukraine last February. “JR, joined by 100 volunteers, unfurled Valeriia’s image in Lviv, Ukraine on 14 March. With each person holding a section of the tarp, the community moved through the city lifting the young girl’s image up to the sky,” the statement adds.

In May last year, JR visited the Mugombwa refugee camp in Rwanda near the border of Burundi where thousands of people have settled after fleeing from the Democratic Republic of Congo. “Children and adults in Mugombwa came together and held Thierry’s image up to the sky to show that there are children stuck in refugee camps all around the world,” the statement says. The image of eight-year-old Thierry is among the works carried on the streets of Turin.

The public art event marks the artist’s first solo exhibition in Italy, which runs at the Intesa Sanpaolo museum (9 February-16 July). The show, DÉPLACÉ·E·S, is organised by Gallerie d’Italia and curated by Arturo Galansino, the director general of Palazzo Strozzi in Florence.

Photography and video installations present “the harsh conditions in which thousands of people find themselves today due to conflicts, wars, famine and climate change”, says an exhibition statement.

Ten years ago, the anthropologist Michel Agier deplored the lack of importance of the status of refugees and displaced persons, which forever seals their exclusion from society.” JR says in a statement. “My art creates tension between the visible and the invisible to resist the trivialisation of perspectives.” Drone footage of the five public canvases will also be shown in the exhibition.


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