You might not immediately associate New Orleans with public art. You might even argue that the French Quarter is a work of art in itself, and it is certainly true that no graffiti artist would be allowed to paint on its unique buildings. However, look elsewhere and you’ll discover a wealth of art of a different type: murals, sculptures and painted street furniture. So where can you find the best public art in New Orleans?
Banksy In New Orleans
For many street art enthusiasts the most exciting discovery is that there are several Banksy artworks in New Orleans. The British graffiti artist visited the city in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and created a series of new images. Some of them have now disappeared, but I managed to track down a few…
One of the best known New Orleans Banksys is “Umbrella Girl aka NOLA”, on the corner of Kerlerec and North Rampart streets. This shows a young girl with rain dripping onto her head from the inside of her umbrella, a clear political commentary on the ineffectual official response to the Katrina emergency.
The Grey Ghost was an “anti-graffiti artist” whose mission was to paint over any new street art that appeared in New Orleans. Here Banksy gets his revenge by putting the Grey Ghost in one of his own pictures: he is shown in the act of painting out an image… (This one is on Clio Street in the Lower Garden District.)
Although I said there is no street art in the French Quarter, “Looters” can now be seen in the lobby of the International House Hotel on Camp Street. It was moved here after it was vandalised in its former location, perhaps because of the controversy generated by showing two National Guardsmen looting post-Katrina.
Street Art Of The St Claude Arts District
The St Claude Arts District is a bohemian neighbourhood on the edge of the French Quarter. It is a place to enjoy the bars and coffee shops, to shop in the French Market, or to experience live music. The street art here is a mixture of spray-painted murals, stencils and colourful graffiti.
You’ll see many pieces if you zig-zag along the small streets between French Market and St Claude Street – some of my favourites are below.
More Street Art In New Orleans…
Street art is not confined to the St Claude district: look closely and you’ll find colourful murals wherever you go. I came across the two adjoining pictures below in the Lower Garden District.
The picture on the left is called “Baby dolls of New Orleans”. It was painted by Kristof Corvinus as a tribute to the tradition of lively “baby doll parades” during Mardi Gras. (I haven’t been able to find out anything about the picture on the right – do let me know if you have any information about it!)
The art is not confined to walls either. I particularly enjoyed the brightly painted utility boxes that seem to pop up all over the place.
Sculptures In New Orleans
One of the best places to enjoy sculpture in New Orleans is at the free entry Besthoff Sculpture Garden beside the New Orleans Museum of Art. Here more than 90 sculptures are sympathetically arranged in a mature landscape of trees and peaceful lagoons.
Elsewhere, have a look at the jazz-themed sculptures in Louis Armstrong Park.
These are just a few of the many pieces of public art to be seen in New Orleans. Do you have a favourite that I haven’t mentioned? Let me know in the comments below.
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