In a highly unusual yet utterly inspirational move, TED has awarded the 2011 TED Prize of $100,000 to one of our favorite street artists, the shadowy Parisian JR. Known for his large-scale graffiti murals touching on subjects like freedom, identity and limit, the anonymous 27-year-old artist has recently entered filmmaking — his powerful documentary debut, Women Are Heroes, based on the 2009 exhibition of the same name, premiered to astounding acclaim at Cannes this year.
JR creates “Pervasive Art” that spreads uninvited on the buildings of the slums around Paris, on the walls in the Middle-East, on the broken bridges in Africa or the favelas in Brazil. People who often live with the bare minimum discover something absolutely unnecessary. And they don’t just see it, they make it. Some elderly women become models for a day; some kids turn artists for a week. In that Art scene, there is no stage to separate the actors from the spectators.”
Previous TED Prize winners have included Bill Clinton, marine biologist Sylvia Earle, educational entrepreneur Dave Eggers, and chef and nutrition activist Jamie Oliver.
We’re thrilled to see TED further expand its celebration of creativity and philanthropy with work that lives outside the world of traditional high culture and even the law, yet touches millions of lives in a very human and powerful way, injecting joy, pride and humility where they are needed the most.