Street sign art, you say? Sure, why not. It’s, perhaps, a natural extension of street art. When I visited Florence back in 2013, I noticed something new that delighted me. I’m a lover of street art wherever I can find it (and especially when it’s done well), and seeing the whimsical street signs of Florence made wandering the city extra fun. It turned into a bit of a treasure hunt looking for different signs. I was soon to learn they were the work of French artist, Clet Abraham, and he’d been having some fun with the mundane signage since 2010.
Abraham, originally from France, has been living in Italy for over 20 years. His aim is to make people think about blindly taking orders, while adding in a good dose of amusement. Most municipalities have turned a blind eye to his work, some even encouraging it and working with him. Tuscany hired him to create some original work to celebrate National Women’s Day. On the flip side, however, he has had legal troubles in the conservative Pistoia, Italy, and his girlfriend was imprisoned in Osaka, Japan. Abraham’s alterations have never changed the original purpose of any of the signs involved. There is no doubt that a no-entry sign is still a no-entry sign, just with a side of fun.
So how does he create these works of art? Turns out it is done with removable vinyl stickers that have a colour match to the street signs he plans to transform. With the exception of the few municipalities he has collaborated with, he literally steals out into the night and changes signs under the cover of darkness. There’s no doubt who the responsible party is these days, as his art has become famous around the world.
The Evolution of Art
Fast-forward four years to 2017. I definitely noticed a few changes to the artwork on the signs. The images are more colourful and more delicate. In my opinion, they lack the graphic punch that his original works did. These newer signs make you look at them longer, and maybe that’s the point of the change. Or maybe it’s just an artist evolving. I just know I was thrilled to still see them around the city, adding a bit of comic relief to a traditional city.
For those in London, Paris, New York, Osaka, Kyoto, and some smaller towns in Italy and France, keep your eyes open! Abraham has been at work in these cities, too, transforming mundane street signs into whimsical elements to brighten your day.