Rome Travel Guide

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Sunday, December 1, 2013

C215: Street Art Caravaggio in Rome

C215 painting, San Lorenzo
We first encountered the work of street artist C215 (pronounced C two one five) on an amble through San Lorenzo in July 2012.  The work was on a sidewalk-level electrical access panel.  Our attraction was an obvious one; we recognized the content: a version of Caravaggio's Boy with a Basket of Fruit (1593-94).  The signature--C215 in a cube on the right of the artwork--was there, too, but we didn't know yet how to "see" it.  Now we do. 

Our next contact with C215 was in one of Rome's emerging hotbeds of street art, the suburb of Tor Pignattara.  We must have learned something about the artist in the months since our first sighting, because we went there to catch a C215 exhibit at the Wunderkammern gallery, a great space doing its best to nudge Rome onto the world avant-garde art scene.
 Wunderkammern opened a new show last night - November 30, of works by Rero, a French conceptual artist.

When we were at Wunderkammern, the space was given over to C215's work, which included at least two more versions of Caravaggio's Boy.  One was painted on a red postal box (on this day, there were bottles and wine glasses on it, testifying to a party the night before). 

Another, perhaps based on a different Caravaggio painting, had been done on a metal plaque.

It was clear from the exhibit that C215's work was not limited to Caravaggio; he also had a fondness for cats.  In a short visit to Rome that coincided with the Wunderkammern exhibit, he had
Street cat by C215
produced some wall paintings in Tor Pignattara, including a piece for the bar across the street from the gallery (left). 

Most revealing, we learned at the gallery that C215 does his work using stencils rather than individual brush strokes, a technique that makes it possible for him to work quickly and generate lots of product.  Despite our appreciation of C215's work, we were oddly disappointed to know it was done with stencils, and quickly.  Somehow that made it seem too easy, though that perspective seems unreasonably "Protestant." 

C215 in London
For reasons that will go unexplained (we are hardly jet-setters; we flew Ryanair, which is something like inhabiting a continuous, yellow advertisement) London was our next C215 stop.  It's a city serious about its street art; one of the stars of the "scene" paints the gum spots on the street.  Seriously. 

Anyway, we were fortunate to have a first-rate street-art tour, and on it, in an alley somewhere in East London, we found C215--another boy, but not, apparently, based on Caravaggio.  And just fifty feet away, a Banksy piece that must be worth millions (if you could move the wall it's on).  Indeed, C215--Paris-based, his real name Christian Guémy--has been referred to as the "French Banksy."  He may not be that, but his work is not cheap.


Chewing gum street art, London. Not C215.  Rome has some catching up to do. 

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