Angoulême is famous above all for its International Comics Festival (FIBD), a celebration of the art of comics that draws thousands of visitors to the city each January.
Artists and fans flock to Angoulême from all over the world, but the art form they come to admire is particularly popular with the French.
Worldwide recognition of modern creativity
The city gained international recognition when Unesco named it Creative City in 2019 for his pioneering role in promoting the ninth art of comic.
The city’s contemporary reputation as a melting pot of creativity is not limited to its annual comic book night, however.
Angoulême has another arty string to its bow, one that tempts travelers all year round, and which has earned it the title of image city.
More than 30 murals to visit
Throughout the Middle Ages, the ramparts of Angoulême protected citizens and kept enemies away.
More recently, however, city walls have served an entirely different purpose, designed to attract visitors rather than repel them.
Small-scale graphics of comic book characters have been magnified and painted on the walls of old and new buildings around Angouleme.
More than 30 vast murals now adorn the buildings of the Charente town, and these striking works of art have undoubtedly contributed to its well-deserved nickname of Creative City.
While the comic book festival takes place every January, year after year (except in 2021 because of the Covid), the painted frescoes of Angoulême are more recent.
So what made Angoulême a magnet for mural artists?
No historical connection to wall art
Like any other French town, paintings are said to have adorned the walls of the town’s churches in the Middle Ages, but Angoulême does not seem to have had a particular pedigree for medieval wall painting.
Saint-Pierre Cathedral is famous for its sculpted Romanesque facade, its paintings long lost in the mists of time.
You can still see 19th-century paintings in St. Joseph’s Chapel in St. Andrew’s Church, but that doesn’t count as a centuries-old affinity with the art of wall painting.
Started with the regeneration project
The town’s love affair with murals began in 1982, when Angoulême was just another neglected industrial town.
Culture Minister Jack Lang has launched a national initiative called Walls in Francewhich aimed to regenerate cities by making unloved buildings beautiful.
Lang’s project selected 13 different artists to create a mural in 13 French cities.
‘Wall of Heroes’ was the first mural
Icelandic postmodern pop artist Guðmundur Guðmundsson, aka Erró, has transformed the wall of a social housing building in Angoulême My Campaign quarter in a tribute to his favorite cartoon and comic book characters.
From a previously drab wall spring Batman, Tweetie Pie, Wonder Woman, Tarzan and Tintin in an explosion of color.
Erró called his creation wall of heroesand so began the progressive transformation of Angoulême into a place of permanent open-air exhibition.
Growing reputation as a comic town
The next step was taken in 1997, when André Juillard, President of the Jury of the 24th edition of the FIBD, took comics to the streets by placing 25 huge painted canvases on different walls in the old town and calling it In the footsteps of André Juillard.
These works were temporary, but they sowed the seeds of the walking tours that tourists now enjoy.
In the years following Juilliard’s citywide street art exhibition, the municipality worked with city of creation to launch a series of large murals that would reflect the city’s growing reputation as the home of comic.
Since then, paintings of French comic book stalwarts like Titeuf, Lucky Luke and Boule et Bill have been commissioned for city walls.
Take a tour with the Angoulême app
More recently, in 2021, on the back wall of 10, boulevard Louis Pasteur, the artist François Boucq designed a joyful tribute to Albert Uderzo, who died in March 2020.
In Uderzo in his cosmosthe artist’s co-creations, including Asterix and Obelix, seem to soar directly from his imagination into the world, as he sits at his desk in the center of the painted wall.
Nothing can compare to these gigantic visions of cartoonish chaos in the flesh (really, on brick and stone), but those who can’t make it to Angouleme in person can take part in a much more sedentary journey by downloading the free application of the city, Angoulême Comic Strip Walls
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