Interview with Clet Abraham

Many of you have probably seen his artwork in the streets of Florence in the form of alter traffic signs but you don’t know much about who he is. Today we met him, and Clet is one of Florence’s most well known artists. Since 2010 he’s been conducting night time blitzes altering traffic signs with inventive easy to remove stickers like a silhouette of a man carrying away a non entry bar, a sign turned into a crucifix, or an arrow that is piercing a heart. Clet Abraham does much more than street art, however with a studio in the heart of the san Michelo area the French born artist now an adoptive Florentine draws designs and creates art by day but, when he feels the need he hits the town at night to do some street art even though he knows that its illegal.

Altered sign in Rome (Credit: Flickr / Creative Commons: Philosofia)

“I am before an artist, a drawer, and then I like street art because it is the best place to expose it to the public and people. I am an artist, before during and after. The work on the street is illegal; I know it and I say it. Because I want to challenge the legality, its important symbols of life, like respect. Sometimes I have a fine. I have one fine at the beginning of Florence because they discover me in the night, and I was walking, and I think I was too curious to understand what could happen. I was not so hidden, so they discover me and give me a fine and I pay it. The second time its because I go into a little city in Florence Bistoria and the police decide to give me a fine, of course there was article in the newspaper, they call me and I say yes I do it because I want to explain my work. And they give me a big fine and I’m in the process, and I think its possible to close it. Anyway I don’t want to pay it because there is no competent to this side of my work, a police officer is not a specialist in communication, this is communication. I am communication specialist

Another one in Milan (Credit: Flickr / Creative Commons: greenmarlin)

Abraham explains to us why he feels the need every once in awhile to go out and do some street art.

“Sometimes I go, for example I stay one week in Paris I do just this one, because its life it’s the best part of art. I just need to speak with my public. Communication I need communication.”

We then asked him what his views are on street art versus vandalism.

“For me the difference between street art and vandalism is vandalism is destroying and art is building. Of course when you do art you have to do work in order to build something, and vandalism just destroys. In street art there are a lot of steps about quality. Bad quality is just young people who want to exist. These young people want to protest, I understand but this is not art. Good street art will be original, and nice and you have an idea you try to explain. Graffiti is just a copy of a style, like here in Florence; it does not have any sense. But there is though very nice graffiti.”

Paris (Credit: Flickr / Creative Commons: JULIAN MASON)

Abraham is responsible for a number of surprise installations like the common man statue he put on Ponte Alegrasi bridge in 2011 and a self portrait he secretly installed in the museum of Ponte Vecchio which was left there for 24 hours before a guard noticed it. During the interview he also gave us a preview of his next big project, it is a larger than life crucifix that will be displayed in the Gallery in Torino.

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