The murals of Lyon

Mural art has been around for well over 30000 years. After the Mexican revolution (1910-1920), it was Mexico that made mural art trendy. And it caught on. Urban art is everywhere.

A group of Lyon-based artists decided to make urban art their form of expression. Cite Creation, a mural design house, was born out of this desire. Lyon, being home to these artists, means that they have contributed mainly to Lyon’s mural art themed around the history, culture and social life of Lyon/France. Today, their artwork is found worldwide, and not limited to only Lyon or France.

La Fresque de Lyonnais (Mural of Lyonnais) is one such example. An 800 square metre space provided artists with a canvas to populate with portraits of Lyonnais whose contributions to their respective professions had a worldwide impact. From a list of 250 people, thirty Lyonnais were chosen. People from the more recent past are at eye level, and those from Lyon’s history are on the upper levels of the mural. So you have the Lumiere brothers, Ampere, Jean de Verrazano and Jacquard, among others. The canvas is 4-sided, so do walk around and discover shops and restaurants too. The reflection of an actual store on the opposite side of the road finds itself on the mural! The artwork is so lifelike that it looks like an apartment with folks on the balcony going about their business.

La Fresque de Lyonnais
La Fresque de Lyonnais

A short 350 metres away from the La Fresque de Lyonnais is ‘La Bibliothèque de la Cité’, the City Library. A six-storey wall of 400 square metres is the canvas for a library. You can see works of authors from the Lyon region, including Voltaire, Rabelais, Annie Salager and a few others. A café must go hand in hand with a library, and there is one on this mural too. The words ‘les murs ç’est la peau des habitants’ is painted on the wall, and I am not sure if it carries any profound meaning other than the literal one (the walls are the skin of the inhabitants). Gutenberg, the man behind the printing technique, finds himself on this canvas, as does Xerox, the photocopier company.

La Bibliothèque de la Cité
La Bibliothèque de la Cité

In Vieux Lyon, I stumbled on a mural that is easy to miss (and not one from Cite Creative) because of the dull colours and tree cover 😦 Cour des Loges depicts the raising of the curtain in a theatre. A hotel by the same name is located a little deeper inside Vieux Lyon. In all probability, there might be a connection between the two.

Cour des Loges
Cour des Loges

I chanced upon another mural a little away from the Amphitheatre de trois Gauls, along Rue de l’Annonciade on the way to La maison aux 365 fenetres (House with 365 windows).

La Fresque Végétale Lumière
La Fresque Végétale Lumière

La Fresque Végétale Lumière (Lit Plants Mural) is more agrarian in nature and covers a large stretch of wall with three murals – photographs by famed French environmentalist and photographer Yann Arthus Bertrand. The pictures are important areas of vegetation from Argentina, Mali and Brazil, focusing on the environmental impact of excessive agriculture on these regions. This mural is lit in the evenings and was the first of its kind in Lyon.

The grandest of them all is the Le Mur des Canuts (Silk Weavers’ Wall), Europe’s largest mural when it was created. It used to be a bare wall with three advertisement hoardings on the lower section for a business called Avenir.

Le Mur des Canuts
Le Mur des Canuts today

When they wanted the empty area around their hoardings to be painted, Cite Creation took inspiration from the local history, architecture and people in the La Croix Rousse area where the majority of Canuts (Silk Weavers) lived and worked. The finished mural looks like an apartment with shops on the ground floor. Steep stairs partition two blocks of the ‘building’. That was in the late ‘80s.

Le Mur des Canuts
Le Mur des Canuts over the years

Cite Creation revisited the mural ten years later and changed it in line with the urban developments around the mural. It got a new look yet again in 2013. Almost ten years have gone by. Time for a change? Time will tell.

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