BETC Paris is moving offices. The ad agency’s new building is distinctive: the Magasins Généraux in Pantin. Abandoned since 2004, it has become a haven for graffiti artists around the world. In order to celebrate the artworks created there before renovations begin, BETC Paris has launched Graffiti Général, which offers a 3D tour of the site online…
Aware that some may baulk at the idea of an advertising agency erasing years of graffiti heritage, Graffiti Général is BETC’s way of offering a permanent record of the site as it stands today. The website offers the chance for viewers to visit the building virtually, and gives detailed information on over 40 of the artworks in there, as well as about the artists. Visitors can also add their own grafitti to the building online, so the history of the building can continue to evolve, albeit only virtually.
Looking at these photographs of Magasins Généraux, the building is certainly impressive. It features artworks by well-known graffiti artists including Lek, Itvan Kebadian (including the beetle shown below) and Seth, amongst many others. “By choosing to install our agency in the Magasins Généraux at Pantin, we were conscious of our duty to preserve as much as possible these thousands of artworks,” says BETC founder and global creative director Rémi Babinet. “However, the specific nature of this art form and the way it is realised presented us with a dilemma.
“The very essence of graffiti is that it is continually overpainted by new works,” he continues. “Preserving the graffs as they are, freezing them in time at an arbitrary date in the life of the building, did not really make sense. At the same time, renovating the building by destroying the thousands of graffiti that have given it the unique identity it has today was unthinkable.
“Recently, others have also taken a stand on the issue of graffiti. In Paris, the Tour 13 project mobilised the public around an immense ephemeral art gallery. In New York, 5Pointz, the famous vacant lot in Queens that had become one of the main focal points of graff culture, was wiped out in a single night, whitewashed to oblivion to make way for an ambitious property development scheme.
“The Graffiti Général initiative provides a solution to this contradictory problem through an initiative that is consistent with the very spirit of graffiti art: preserving the current state and atmosphere of the building and its works on the eve of the reconstruction while still allowing it to continue to live and evolve through an unprecedented virtual experience.”
BETC will move into Magasins Généraux in 2016. The conversion of the building will be made by architect Frédérick Jung, who devised the renovation of the agency’s current building, in Gare de l’Est in the 10th arrondissement, back in 2000.
To check out the interior of the Magasins Généraux as it looks now, go to the Gråffiti Général website at graffitigeneral.com.