On June 21, Paris’ Palais de Tokyo, one of the most celebrated museums in Europe devoted to showcasing contemporary art, opened its latest exhibit “City Prince/sses.” It showcases 50 artists, designers, musicians, experimenters, and creators from Manila, Mexico City, Tehran, Lagoas, and Dhaka. Not only are these capitals of major importance to their respective countries, they’re also all renowned for artforms that reflect the many faces of frenzied and multifaceted urban space.

Colorful murals by artist Pow Martinez.

In particular, artist Pow Martinez played a key role in the creation of the exhibit. Martinez spent two weeks in June painting audaciously colorful cartoon-like spirits and fiends on a small portion of the level 1 and 2 stairway walls of the Palais. He was greatly honored by the opportunity to use the space as a giant sketch pad, adding, “It is something I don’t always do because I’m not a street or graffiti artist. It is challenging to make because of the big scale. It is like making 30 large paintings.”

Martinez explains that what visitors will see at the Palais exhibit is largely intuitive work. “I don’t work literally and make work directly based on the curatorial theme,” he says. “I think for me it’s boring and uninteresting to make work like that, to be totally direct. I want the viewer to complete the work by viewing it.”

Called among other things, “the largest center for contemporary artistic creation in all of Europe,” “the anti-museum,” and “a rebellious wasteland,” the Palais de Tokyo is the ideal venue for Martinez’s vision. One of his creations for the show features a church engulfed in flames, soldiers armed with rifles, men dangling upside down from tree limbs, a bombshell atop a white steed, and a coarse portrayal of a revolution in action.

Colorful murals by artist Pow Martinez.
Colorful murals by artist Pow Martinez.

It took Martinez a full two weeks to complete his project, changing images, filling in white spaces, making sure his murals over 50 steps of the staircase and a middle landing best captured his vision and style. He was given a floor plan and video of the area he was assigned prior to his arrival so he could make some preliminary sketches ahead of time. He says: “At first, I wanted to make like a flash tattoo style of images of my works with lots of white spaces. I found it too clean and boring like coffee shop wall art. So I ended up making it like my paintings, messy and rough.”

Pow admits that he was still a bit overwhelmed when he saw the actual space. He says: “It was hard at first because I’m not used to painting on walls in this scale.” But his innate talent prevailed and his unique characters and dark humor shone through in every single inch.

Colorful murals by artist Pow Martinez.
Colorful murals by artist Pow Martinez.

According to the curators, the Palais-wide show’s goal was to nurture artists’ insights from the bedlam of huge cities and the expected development and deceptive change these urban spaces endure. The curator press kit proposes that “the artists who emerge from them are thus the strollers of the 21st century, hackers of our answers to an urban milieu which is often too functional and standardized.”

City Prince/sses will be open at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris through the 8th of September.