With the official start of Mardi Gras parades this past weekend, the city is abuzz with Carnival fever. This marks an exciting time of celebrating the rich history and culture of New Orleans. This year, the sights and sounds of Mardi Gras will be further enhanced by Art Below’s first “Pop-Up” billboard exhibition in America.
Art Below is a London-based organization, which five years ago started placing art in the London Underground in an effort to draw travelers’ attention to their surroundings. Their mission is “to enrich the everyday life of the traveling public by giving fresh insight into the very latest in art, illustration, photography, fashion, whilst at the same time providing a platform for emerging talent.”
Art Below’s New Orleans “Pop-Up” has placed art by international and local artists on billboards along the Mardi Gras parade routes throughout the month of February. The group show, curated locally by Dave Rhodes, enhances the city scape by presenting art in a larger-than-life format, making it accessible to the mass public and part of the freedom that is inherent to New Orleans and more specifically the Mardi Gras celebration.
While the billboards provide mass exposure for artists and an awareness of the importance and presence of art as a part of our daily lives to viewers, the original works are also on display at Gallery Orange in the French Quarter through February 29. There viewers will be able to get maps of the billboard locations (also accessible here) and experience the traditional intimate connection with the works of art. The opportunity to view the works of art in both traditional and unconventional environments provides multiple points of entry from which the viewer can connect to the artists and their work as well as reflect upon and experience the unique culture of New Orleans. To my eye the exhibition also provides an intriguing and legal parallel to the increasingly popular street art movement, placing art on the streets where it is accessible to anyone in the general public, yet doing so in a legal way.
Viewers will have an opportunity to further engage with the art and a chance to mingle with the artists, many of whom are flying in to experience their first Mardi Gras, by joining Art Below at Gallery Orange for a Mardi Gras style party celebrating the exhibition on February 18.
Brianna Smyk has an M.A. in Art History from San Diego State University. She lives and works in New Orleans and writes about arts and culture for NolaVie. Read more of Brianna’s articles at www.beingbreezie.tumblr.com.