The use of a street sign as a creative "canvas" for a street artist is not uncommon - I see altered signs all the time. But there's something about the way that artists in Paris utilize their street signs that makes for some interesting art. But before I get into the examples that I saw in Paris, let's first set a comparison point with a few street signs that I've seen in the United States, below.
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What seems pretty common here in the States is that the artist will "slap" some sticker art on the street sign (which is why they're called "slaps"), as you can see from these three examples below. "Stop Taking Pills" was seen in Belleville, NJ, and the "one way" and "no soliciting" signs were seen in New Orleans. I can understand the benefit for the street artist to use "slaps" - it's a fast way to get your art out there in public with a reduced chance of someone actually seeing you do it because it can be done so quickly.
But the street artists in Paris seem less concerned with speed and quick hits, as the altered street signs that I saw there seemed to be more time-intensive and elaborate rather than just putting sticker art up in public. Let's take a look at a few examples. Here's two favorites from my exploration of the streets of Paris: below left, a "no parking" sign - with an additional sign letting you know that your car will be towed if you park here - has been turned into an unbuckled belt. Below right, a "do not enter" sign suddenly becomes a great burden for this man to carry.
Here's another pair of fun altered street signs in Paris. Below left, the "no left turn" sign has a bent-over Eiffel Tower attached to the original arrow letting people know where to go to see the real (and straight) Eiffel Tower. Below right, another "do not enter" sign has been updated with a suggested message that one shouldn't enter this area because you might disturb men deep in thought, as this guy appears to be.
Another common spot to see street art in Paris was near the street address signs that are posted on the corners of buildings indicating that particular street. Here's three examples of this approach to tagging walls in Paris.
Here's a trio of blue street signs, which are a bit more mysterious to me. I'm guessing that the sign below left is to indicate that there's a speed bump in the road ... but adding a couple "googly eyes" and some inquisitive eyebrows turns the speed bump into a man. The middle sign might suggest that this road is bicycle-rider-friendly, but the wheels of the bike turn into glasses - or simply eyes, perhaps - with the addition of these plump lips. Below right, what do we have here? The sticker showing a green cat-like creature suggests that Dads and their daughters are not allowed to walk cats here?
Don't get me wrong, there were a fair number of street signs with "slaps" on them in Paris too. Here's a couple examples, including a sign below left which has had its original message completely covered. And "Rue Lepic" in Montmartre, below right, is now adorned with a green monster (bottom left) and Bart Simpson (far right), among other characters.
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