JR exhibits freely in the streets of the world, catching the attention of people who are not typical museum visitors.
After finding a camera in the Paris metro in 2001, he traveled Europe to meet those who express themselves on walls and facades, and pasted their portraits in the streets, undergrounds and rooftops of Paris.
In 2006, he created Portrait of a Generation, portraits of suburban “thugs” that he posted, in huge formats, in the bourgeois districts of Paris.
In 2007, with Marco, he made Face 2 Face, the biggest illegal exhibition ever. JR posted huge portraits of Israelis and Palestinians face to face in eight Palestinian and Israeli cities.
In 2008, he embarked on a long international trip for Women Are Heroes, in which he underlines the dignity of women who are often the targets of conflicts. That year he also created The Wrinkles of the City, a project that took him to Cartagena (Spain), Shanghai, Los Angeles, Havana, Berlin and Istanbul in which he emphasizes on the transformation of neighborhoods and cities through the wrinkles of their elderly.
In 2010, his film Women Are Heroes was presented at Cannes. The same year, JR created Unframed, a project in which he uses images that are not his, by famous or unknown photographers, and reframes them in a new context, on a larger scale, giving them a new meaning.
In 2011 he received the TED Prize, after which he created Inside Out, an international participatory art project that allows people worldwide to get their picture taken and paste it to support an idea and share their experience – as of December 2016, over 320,000 people from more than 139 countries have participated, through mail or gigantic photobooths installed in museum or streets all over the world, from Times Square to Fukushima.
In 2014, he ended the Women Are Heroes project by pasting on a container ship which travelled to Le Havre to Malaysia.
In a collaboration with New York City Ballet, he used the language of ballet to tell his story of the riots that happened in the French suburbs in 2005 and created “Les Bosquets”, a ballet and eponymous short film whose music was composed by Woodkid, Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer and which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival.
He created an installation with 4,000 faces in and on the Pantheon in Paris. The concept of crowd will be used for a video installation at the CAC Malaga, and on the façade of Assemblée Nationale and other monuments in Paris during the COP 21 summit at the end of 2015. He worked in the abandoned hospital of Ellis Island, an important chapter in the history of immigration – and directed the short movie ELLIS, starring Robert De Niro.
In 2016 he was invited by the Louvre and made the famous pyramid disappear through a surprising anamorphosis.
He worked in Rio de Janeiro during the 2016 Olympics and created new gigantic sculptural installations using scaffolding, at the scale of the city, putting an emphasis on the beauty of the athletic movement.
His latest projects include a museum exhibition dedicated to children at Centre Pompidou, a permanent collaboration with the Brazilian artists Os Gemeos at Palais de Tokyo in Paris, in a space used to store stolen pianos during World War II, and a film with Agnès Varda, co-directing a movie with the Nouvelle Vague icon, traveling around France to meet people and discuss their visions.
JR creates "Pervasive Art" that spreads uninvited on the buildings of the slums around Paris, on the walls in the Middle-East, on the broken bridges in Africa or the favelas in Brazil. People who often live with the bare minimum discover something absolutely unnecessary. And they don't just see it, they make it. Some elderly women become models for a day; some kids turn artists for a week. In that Art scene, there is no stage to separate the actors from the spectators.
As he remains anonymous and doesn’t explain his huge full-frame portraits of people making faces, JR leaves the space empty for an encounter between the subject/protagonist and the passer-by/interpreter. That is what JR's work is about, raising questions...
JR is represented by Galerie Perrotin; he has had shows in Paris, Hong-Kong, Miami and New York. JR is also represented by Lazarides in London, Magda Danysz in Shanghai, Simon Studer Art in Geneva and Springmann Gallery in Berlin.
In 2013, JR got his first museum retrospectives in Tokyo (Watari-Um) and CAC in Cincinnati, followed by Frieder Burda in Baden-Baden in 2014 and HOCA Foundation in Hong-Kong in 2015.