If you live in a city, you’re probably surrounded by billboards hawking everything from lottery jackpots to vanilla lattes. But what if the giant signs were plastered with art instead? In Paris, Etienne Lavie has imagined what the city would look like if classical paintings replaced ads.
These scenes aren’t real—Lavie has Photoshopped Renoir and Delacroix into shots that he took in the Paris Metro and on city streets. But the project leads us to wonder how people would react in real life.
Something similar actually has happened: Last summer, a giant exhibition called Art Everywhere took over 22,000 billboards and poster sites in the U.K., plastering bus stops and taxis with work from British artists like Lucien Freud and David Hockney. The creator of that project, Innocent Drinks founder Richard Reed, happened to see a mysterious, ad-free poster up on a billboard during his daily walks in London, and started wondering what it would look like if all of the billboards in the U.K. temporarily showed nothing but art.
When the "very very big art show" finally happened, he was flooded with appreciation. But at the same time, some people on the street didn’t necessarily pay that much attention. Maybe we’re so conditioned to ignore billboards as we walk by that even masterpieces won’t always slow us down. Still, here’s hoping a guerrilla artist takes inspiration from Lavie’s images and starts replacing ads somewhere else. And maybe more cities can follow the lead of São Paulo, Brazil, which banned outdoor ads completely in 2006, but still encourages art on city streets.