Richard Orlinski: Long Live Street Art!

How have urban cultures stood up to the post-Covid reality? This is the question asked by sculptor Richard Orlinski, one of today’s best-known French artists. In a new role as the impromptu host of Sur les murs, a show available on the TV5MONDEplus streaming platform, he travels the world meeting Francophone street artists, musicians, dancers, and chefs – “passionate people using cities as the medium for practicing their art and expressing their ideas.”
© Richard Orlinski Ateliers

France-Amérique: What inspired this mobile documentary series?

Richard Orlinski: The pandemic was very difficult for artists, and for outdoor culture as a whole. I wanted to put them in the spotlight. With this in mind, I spoke to a producer with whom I work regularly, and we pitched the project to TV5MONDE. They jumped on it immediately, and everything developed very quickly. The first season of 20 episodes, each lasting around half an hour, was launched in November 2021.

After Paris, Marseille, Brussels, Berlin, Barcelona, Montreal, and Miami, you are preparing to film an episode in New York City. How do you choose the destinations featured in the series?

The third season will be taking us to the United States, but also to Africa, South America, and India. We try to include at least one French city while preparing a new season, but other than that, the sky’s the limit – the idea is to explore the world! However, we do have certain constraints, such as time, the weather, and the artists we are able to find. Some countries also don’t have a culture of street art, which is why we focus on urban culture more generally, including art, music, dance, and food.

How do you prepare and then film each episode? How do you find the Francophone artists you interview?

I love surprises! The production team takes care of scouting before we fly out. I sometimes suggest projects when I am drawn to an artist’s work, for example, but this is rare. I tend to leave that part of the job to the team. They find talents who have a special story, who produce highly visual work, and who will appeal to viewers. I then turn up on site, with nothing prepared! As a result, I can truly immerse myself in each encounter, sharing an experience and a moment in someone’s life. This spontaneity is really what sets the show apart.

Over the first two seasons, you have met graffiti artists, beatboxers, DJs, dancers, skaters, chefs, and more! Have these street cultures influenced your own art?

Of course! Every person I meet inspires me and feeds my own creativity. In the first season, I visited a Belgian artist who works a lot with stickers. I had completely forgotten about this medium, and I would now like to use it as well. I am learning so much! It feels like I have spent the last two years taking classes in everything from graffiti to painting to plaster casting.

You are known for Born Wild, a collection of wild animals in resin in blue, pink, white, red, yellow, black, gold, and chrome. How did you come up with this bestiary?

I have always been drawn to animals. They are so close to humans; they live almost in symbiosis with us and are featured in every mythology, whether Egyptian, Greek, or Roman. Animals also unite us; everyone likes them!

Richard Orlinski, Wild Kong. © Yoshi Power Shot
Richard Orlinski, Shark. © Yoshi Power Shot

Tell us about your most famous piece, Wild Kong, a gorilla standing up straight, certain models of which are more than 16 feet tall. Is this an expression of your alter ego?

If it were, I would have made it much bigger! How insulting! [Laughs.] I choose the gorilla because it is a silverback, an endangered species, and because they are incredible creatures who share 99.99% of their DNA with us. We also have the same stature and eat in the same ways. There is something very powerful in this closeness. Then there is the iconic image from the movie King Kong; an immensely powerful yet attentive, loving, kind monster who stands up to ignorant men obsessed with destroying nature. He’s the perfect guy!

Twelve of your totem animals, including a gorilla, a shark, a horse, and a lion, are currently exhibited in the streets of Miami Beach until March 31. You also recently opened a gallery there and are hoping to open another one in New York City. What are your ties to the United States?

I have always been fascinated by the country – whether its technology, fashion, or streetwear. I also attended Pacific Palisades High School in Los Angeles for three months, and I almost continued my studies in the United States, but a scholarship issue put an end to that plan. However, my work has been exhibited everywhere from Miami and New York to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and Dallas for years. My art works really well with American pop culture. We are hoping to build on this U.S. presence throughout 2023 with a gallery in New York – we’re currently visiting spaces in SoHo and the Meatpacking District – and another in Aspen, Colorado. The United States is a major contemporary art destination!

Sur les murs
is currently available to stream on TV5MONDEplus.