Thursday, May 19, 2016

Clet Abraham—A Florentine Street Artist

While taking a stroll through the lovely streets of Florence it is easy to get lost in the beauty of the historical buildings, shops, and galleries. You may not even notice something gone astray with the traffic signs. But if you look up you might just see that a dead end sign is transformed into a Jesus crucifixion and there’s a silhouette of a man trying to slyly carry away the white bar of a no entry sign. 

Who’s behind this sneaky street art? The answer to that question is none other than French artist Clet Abraham.  Ever since the summer of 2010 he has been revamping street signs in Florence and across Europe into works of art. 

His artwork is given life mostly in the middle of the night when he applies his pre-made stickers to the chosen street signs. He props his bike up against the sign and then stands on the seat to apply his art. “It literally takes 10 seconds,” says Clet. 

While Clet’s work is not entirely legal he takes care not to alter the function of the road signs. “I don’t damage the signs because I use stickers, but I wake up attention and create dialogue,” says Clet.

Not everyone has the same view as Clet or sees the alterations as art. Some even classify his art as “vandalism” saying that it’s a distraction and doesn’t belong in the historical and beautiful city of Florence. In October of 2010, just a few months after he began, Clet also received a 400 euro fine because the altered signs violated traffic laws.

However, this didn’t stop Clet, but instead encouraged him to think bigger. On January 20, 2011, a fiberglass life-size sculpture known as Common Man appeared on Ponte alle Grazie. It was installed by Clet without permission and seven days later it was removed, but not before it drew much attention and appreciation from the community. 

Clet explains how in a renaissance city like Florence he only intervenes where elements break with history and contrast with the city. Both the Common Man and his altered street signs dialogue with the city where modern invasions, like street signs and the modernly designed Ponte alle Grazie, have taken over.


While authorities for the meantime have mostly turned a blind eye to Clet’s art it’s unclear what the future holds for Clet and his clever street signs, along with the many other street artists who depend on urban backdrops as their canvas. With growing appreciation it’s hard to imagine a world without your local street artist. Keep an eye out for Clet's art next time you just happen to be in Florence! ;) 

 “Street art, when done well, is a gift to the city and it’s residents.” 

Clet Abraham

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