Lyon : mural and monumental chronicles – CitéCréation celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2018

Ulysses | By Éric Delon – 22.04.2011

It is impossible to miss the immense wall paintings of the CitéCréation collective. For 30 years, they have told the history of the city, its memory and its great figures.

We are in 1978, in Oullins, in the southern suburbs of Lyon. A collective of young students, breaking away from the ban at the Beaux-Arts, carries on the baptismal font a cooperative they call CitéCréation. The ambition of these apprentice artists, who more readily define themselves as “artisans”, is to create murals, trompe-l’oeil and various urban scenographies.

The principle of internal functioning, which has remained unchanged until today, respects strict equality between men and women. More than thirty years later, the results are flattering: CitéCréation has signed nearly 500 monumental murals in Lyon, France, but also throughout the world, from Quebec to Berlin, via Barcelona, Mexico, Moscow or Shanghai.
In the capital of the Gauls, where it all began, it is difficult to mention all the murals created by CitéCréation. They can be found in every borough, at the bend of a street, a square, in the city centre as well as in outlying neighbourhoods. There are nearly a hundred of them, which tell the story of places, districts, the city, personalities who marked the history, the memory of Lyon.
“In 25 years, the circuit of painted walls has become the third circuit of the tourist office most in demand by visitors,” says proudly one of the members of CitéCréation, one of the historical members of the cooperative. The most famous work? Without any doubt, the Fresque des Lyonnais which stretches over 800m2 at the corner of quai Saint-Vincent and rue de la Martinière, in the 1st arrondissement. Thirty illustrious Lyonnais, from the Roman emperor Claude to the abbot Pierre while passing by Paul Bocuse, the poet Louise Labé or Bernard Pivot hold the attention of the passers-by in a trompe-l’oeil shortcut.
Other internationally known works include the Fresque Montluc (rue du Dauphiné, 3rd arrondissement) which pays homage to the martyr of the Jean Moulin Resistance against a backdrop of Van Gogh decor, or the Mur des Canuts à la Croix-Rousse (boulevard des Canuts, Lyon 4e). With a surface area of 1,200 m2, this monumental mural bears witness, every ten years since its creation in 1987, to the transformations of this historic district of the Canuts. “The Croix-Rousse is evolving and the wall is its mirror,” comments one of the team members.
CitéCréation also created the first French open-air “urban museum” in 1980. The Musée Tony-Garnier brings together twenty-five murals in the social housing district of the United States (on the outskirts of Lyon and Vénissieux), presenting the work of Lyon architect Tony Garnier and other visions of international artists on the theme of the ideal city. “This district, where the first HBM (cheap housing) complex was built in the 1930s, was once again a pioneer in integrating culture into the underprivileged urban environment,” explains one of the members of CitéCréation, which reminds that very quickly, the craftsmen of CitéCréation felt the need to invest the social housing districts, as in the Duchère in the 9th district or in the Mermoz district, in the 8th.
“Taking advantage of the rehabilitation of the buildings, we were able to put into practice our credo: the walls are the skin of the inhabitants,” continues one of the team members. If people feel good about themselves, they do not mutilate themselves; if they are proud of it, they maintain and even protect their collective skin, their walls and their environment. Until today we have not been denied.”

Mural of Lyonnais - La Martinière Street - Lyon 1st - France (Realized in 1995)