The street art (or maybe even pop art) described in this post can be found throughout the city but I guess one isn’t paying much attention to traffic signs when walking the city, right? Who cares about traffic signs when you are surrounded by an abundance of historical buildings, gelaterias and shops with Italian delicacies?
Clet and his traffic signs
Well, in Florence you should care about traffic signs! I want to introduce you to a French artist called Clet. His full name is Clet Abraham and he has been living in Italy for over 20 years now. Ever since the summer of 2010 Clet has been active changing the traffic sign landscape in Florence. At night he secretly adds stickers to traffic signs and creates a scene that is mostly funny but has also raised some eyebrows.
A silhouette of a man sneakingly carrying away the no-entry bar is a famous piece of his work. Another one, where a crucified Christ figure is attached to the dead-end sign triggered some controversy as you can imagine. The stickers are easily removable, so unlike the timeless Renaissance art in Florence, Clet’s art is of shorter duration.
The Florence municipality has in the meantime accepted his work (it has slowly become a main attraction of Florence!) and there have been reports of Clet’s street art in other Tuscan cities like Siena.
Interview with Clet
I just read an interview with Clet where he states that “Street art, when done well, is a gift to the city and its residents”. He also mentioned about Florence that “Street art, or guerilla art, needs to be reinvented in dialogue with the Renaissance city”.
I can understand that it is not easy to create street art in a city like Florence where every street and square is packed with either historical buildings, groups of tourists or ‘salesmen’ trying to sell you cheap paintings, t-shirts and other souvenirs. I believe he did a wonderful job aiming for those traffic signs, especially because Florence (and other cities in Tuscany alike) is actually a maze of one-way streets where traffic signs are essential. Clet managed to reinvent the essentials.
Job well done.
You can visit Clet’s studio in Via Dell’Olmo 8r where you can buy stickers and more fun items. Unfortunately the studio was closed when we visited, but of course that didn’t withhold us from taking some pictures through the window.
“This is the best game ever Dad!”
Clet has started to move around Europe with his street sign art, but all the pictures we took are from Florence….. and you are very lucky because I have added lots of them to this post!
No idea how many different traffic signs Clet changed but we managed to capture 31 of them! When you travel with children this is actually one of the best games you can think of in Florence. Our kids went running from one intersection to the other, searching for yet another undiscovered street sign. “This is the best game ever Dad!” – my son shouted when he ran across the Piazza Santa Croce, about to discover street sign no. 18…
You can follow Clet and his adventures on Facebook, yet visiting Florence for a hunt for his traffic signs is far better!
It’s a surreal and colourful approach to the world. What do you think, is it art of graffiti? Don’t hesitate to leave your comment below.
P.S. (Bonus) There is one kind of street art that we cannot explain (I don’t think it’s Clet). These are (fake) dollar bills attached to the wall (close to the Mercato in Florence). The low-hanging bills were gone as some might have thought they were real …. any idea why this wall is decorated with money? Florence has many secrets….