Art 42: When a Street Art Museum Meets a Paris School for Developers

It's not as well known as it should be outside France but a Parisian school called simply 42 (think Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) is providing a fresh approach to those on a quest to master software development. Founded in 2013 by Xavier Niel, the French billionaire and creator of the Free internet and mobile service, the school is notable for operating without teachers and providing no degrees for its 3,000 students. Instead, participants rely on peer-to-peer and project-based learning. Also significant is that the school is a non-profit organization, with the intellectual property it generates belonging to the students, who pay no tuition. A San Francisco 42 opened this summer, with the clip below providing a somewhat gushing overview.

The sprawling space of 42's Paris installation is open around the clock to students, which makes putting all that wall space to use an interesting possibility. And that's just what has now happened in the form of Art 42, which is described as the first permanent exhibition of street art in France. The 150 works on display, sprinkled throughout the campus, are from the collection of Nicolas Laugero Lasserre, who has been collecting street art for more than 15 years and has organized more than 40 exhibitions devoted to it. The artists include such stars as Banksy, JR and Shepard Fairey but most are known only to connoisseurs of the genre — and those who may have stumbled across the works in situ. Because the installation provides a mix of not only made-for-sale works but one-offs originally created for the street and recuperated by Lasserre, with the objective of preserving them.

As you can see from the installation photos below, the works add a much-needed humanism to the 42 space, which is otherwise a rather chilling collection of networked devices. Let's hope some of the challenging of cultural norms and authority embodied in the art rubs off on those who are so intent on engineering our future via code. The public can view the works via guided tour on Tuesday evenings from 7 to 9 and Saturday from 11 until 3 PM. More information is available on the Art 42 site.