Great art can often come from great collaboration. The Wachowskis, The Russo Brothers, The Coen Brothers, and many other great team-ups have changed movies, and the same is true within the art world. Street art is almost always collaborative in some regards, too. Even as we spotlight individual artists, many projects are the result of minds coming together to create something better than what could be thought of individually. And while some artists have made their way on their own, and have made their distinct stamp on the world of street art, many others have done so by working together and, in the spirit of collaboration, created something otherwise impossible.
This sentiment is true with Ella & Pitr, two French artists whose work is the very definition of the collaborative spirit. The two rose to prominence in the mid-2000s in Paris, a city with a vibrant and wonderful street art community. To make their mark, the two created pieces that rely on multiple people working together in two major ways, and one of the most noticeable expressions of this is their Sleeping Giants series.
Painted around the world, Sleeping Giants is a series of extremely large murals of people lying down together. The pieces vary in their sentiment and purpose, but most use muted colours and simple shapes, an approach that makes these extraordinary pieces wonderfully ordinary, which highlights a certain beauty in a very mundane activity: sleeping.
The Sleeping Giants pieces gained international fame when the duo set out to create Norway’s largest mural. Called “Lillith & Olaf,” the piece features a person crouched and sleeping, with a colourful king figurine off to the side. But while the piece itself, in its construction and perspective, is beautiful, the reason it made headlines is the size. At over 225,000 square feet, the piece is easily the largest mural ever made in Norway, and it took the world by storm when it debuted in the fall of 2015.
Ella & Pitr have made a number of murals, both in the Sleeping Giants series and in other exploits that, while not quite as big, are still interesting and interactive pieces. Many of their murals play with the idea of optical illusion and perspective, and people are constantly playing around while photographing themselves in the pieces. Such an effort to interact with street art is not uncommon, but people having fun with a piece in their own way is one of many signs that a piece of street art has done its job, captured people’s attention, and created an opportunity to turn the piece into something more.
The collaborative spirit of Ella & Pitr is a great reminder of how much street art relies on groups of people over singular artists. And while many street artists have deservedly made names for themselves, it’s important to remember that people, not a single person, are integral to art. Not just because every artist needs an audience, but because great things can happen when we work together.