Top 10 Interesting Facts about the I Love You Wall in Montmartre
If you’ve found yourself short of things to do and see in Montmartre (unlikely), I’ll go ahead and add one more semi-hidden attraction into the mix.
A lot of people have heard of the I Love You Wall in passing. It’s one of those things that are so distinctly Parisian that non-locals feel far too awkward to admit ignorance toward. We nod and smile, then secretly pull up Google on our Smartphones; “What is the I love you wall in Montmartre?” we humbly ask our artificially intelligent friend.
The I Love You Wall is a 40 square meter art installation that found a permanent home on the hillside neighborhood of Montmartre.
Montmartre encompasses most of the 18th arrondissement, located in the northern suburbs of Paris. It is a vibrant village with a rich history when it comes to the arts. This was once the hub for the many artists who flocked her post Revolution.
The I Love You Wall is a quick site to pass through if you are in the area. Here are 10 interesting facts about the space to prime you before you head through!
1. The I Love You Wall in Montmartre Features Over 250 Languages
The I Love You Wall is the brainchild of a man named Frédéric Baron. The story goes that back in 1992 he began a personal endeavor to collect all of the different ways that existed in the world by which to say “I love you”.
He spent years wandering around Paris with his notebooks, connecting with people from all around the world and inquiring as to how they know to express the phrase.
Due to the many variants of dialects per language, it is estimated that Baron was able to collect over 1000 different ways of expressing this simple phrase. Some of his research even lead him to knock on the doors of some of the global embassies in Paris in order to confirm that his findings were true.
It was a woman named Claire Kito who eventually convinced Baron that the project should be further brought to life and shared with the public. The rest as they say, is history.
Today the I Love You Wall in Montmartre features a curated range of the popular saying. It was decided by the pair that only the most beautiful looking and sounding versions of the phrase would be included on the wall.
All 192 nations that make up the United Nations are represented on the I Love You Wall in Montmartre. It is estimated that there are 311 phrases on the wall in total, spanning across just over 250 different languages.
2. The I Love You Wall in Montmartre is Made of Lava
What good is a landmark that cant withstand the test of time? Writing on a wall is a precarious element to deal with as even the toughest of paints wither away over long periods of time.
The I Love You Wall needed to be able to develop into a permanent landmark in the district of Montmartre in Paris. Not something that would eventually become an eyesore and have to be taken down, like so much of the usual Parisian street art that can’t withstand long periods of sun and rain exposure.
After meticulous research, the I Love You Wall was constructed out of hundreds of individual tiles made from enamelled lava. Name a natural resource more suited to surviving outside that that.
In total there are 612 tiles that cover the 40 square meter space. Each tile holds the measurements of 21 x 29.7cm; this is a scaled representation of each of the sheets of paper that Baron used in his original notebooks when first collecting each I Love You for the project.
3. The I Love You Wall in Montmartre has a Hidden Broken Heart
Many unknowing visitors and free guided walking tours have passed through this space and been blissfully unaware of some hidden messages going on within the already complicated message board.
When standing before the I Love You Wall in Montmartre, take a minute to notice the other elements included in the piece that aren’t centered around words or typography. If you look you’ll see dozens of red specks that seem to be flung haphazardly across the tiles.
When confronted about the inclusion of these red bits, the artists admitted that these are strategically broken pieces of a heart. They are scattered throughout the piece in a poetic representation of the human race, who as a collective they believe have been torn apart by a lack of love in many parts of the world.
When pieced back together, the red bits would form a complete heart and full symbolism of love. The message is that as a society we have a long way to go in repairing our collective heart and brining all of the pieces back together. It’s a beautiful, additional element to the already very loving wall — take note of the red when you make your visit.
4. The I Love You Wall in Montmartre was Created in 2000
The work and research of Frédéric Baron began in 1992, but the wall itself was only constructed in the year 2000. This gave the artists just over eight years to complete the research phase of his project.
His project partner, Claire Kito, is a a calligrapher specialising in Chinese art and characters. Shortly before the year 2000 she took the notebooks that Baron had complied and began turning them into the vibrant, white typography that you see on the wall today.
The I Love You Wall in Montmartre was open to the public from the day it was completed. Since then, it has been a visiting hub for thousands of tourists and even locals each year.
It’s quite a special thing to stand near the wall and observe the many different people from around the world gazing up at the 600 tiles, all attempting to spot their own language first.
The wall is inclusive, to say the least. The languages represented extend into Navajo and African tribal dialects amongst others. It is described by some as the epitome of human connection and one of the most genuine representations of human nature ever reflected in street art.
5. The I Love You Wall in Montmartre is Based on The Book of I Love Yous
The research conducted by Frédéric Baron was never done with the intent for it to turn into a wall installation in Montmartre. It began as a simple passion project, purely for interest, if you will.
As the research began to snowball and Baron’s interest in uncovering more and more languages grew, so did the potential for further projects.
Baron’s notebooks caught the attention of many a publisher in Paris. It was quickly scooped up by one during the 1990s and turned into a full fledged print version, called The Book of I Love Yous.
Over 50,000 copies of the book were distributed throughout France. It is unclear how many of these made it internationally and are floating around the planet to this day.
The Book of I Love Yous contains all of the collected data that Baron was able to uncover during his time of research. You’ll read first hand exactly how even the most remote and rural of communities around the world express the feeling of love and how they communicate those three words: I love you.
6. The I Love You Wall in Montmartre Sees Many Proposals
The very romantic, whimsical nature of the streets of Montmartre make it one of the most idealistic places in Paris to pop the big question. It is unsurprising that the I Love You Wall has seen its fair share of “will you marry me”s since its inception back in 2000.
I’ve never actually been at the wall when one has taken place, but I have friends who have. They report the whole encounter to be surprisingly non-cliche and beautifully simple.
Not far from the I Love You Wall one can walk to the steps of the Sacre Coeur Basilica. These overlook almost all of Paris in a breathtaking panoramic view of the city. After the I Love You Wall, this is likely the most popular proposal point in the 18th arrondissement.
In truth, the I Love You Wall is probably the epitome of romance when it comes to asking someone to legally bind themselves to you. Instead of telling them you love them, let a 40 meter wall do it for you in 300 dialects — très romantique!
7. The I Love You Wall in Montmartre is Free to Visit
As a point of reference, the I Love You Wall is situated inside of Jehan-Rictus Square in Montmartre. Both the square and the wall are free to visit during all opening hours.
The square itself is open to the public but is managed as a private space. It is opened at 8am daily and then closed up around sunset to protect the wall from any vandalism after darkness falls. The closing times vary depending on the season but 6pm is usually a safe bet to plan your evening around.
In an ideal world the City of Paris would have the wall and square open to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Unfortunately the nature of well known landmarks like this tends to attract the attention of Parisian street gangs who will do anything for a chance to add their own bit of art to the wall space.
Street art is a big part of culture in Paris. In neighborhoods such as Oberkampf and Menilmontant this art is celebrated and encouraged.
8. The I Love You Wall in Montmartre is a Great Place for a Picnic
It is indeed. If you are looking for a relatively quiet and safe space in Montmartre in which to enjoy a picnic lunch then the open space surrounding the wall is a perfect solution.
There is a bit of green space in the square as well as ample benches on which to perch for your afternoon snacks. There is a small children’s play area to the right of the wall which makes this a suitable family picnic space too.
It you’ve made it to the wall but left your treats at home, there are ample cafes and restarts in the neighboring streets from which you can purchase some take away meals and bring them to the wall to enjoy.
One block from the I Love You Wall there is a small cafe called Coquelicot which is my favorite for last minute snacks. Baguettes and croissants from here make for the best take away meals.
9. The I Love You Wall in Montmartre is Cleaned When No One is Watching
This is another reason why the Jehan-Rictus Square needs to be closed every evening for a certain amount of hours. As you can imagine, the natural elements that the I Love You Wall comes into contact with each day can leave the tiles anything but sparkling.
Even enamelled lava has the ability to gather dust and dirt. The maintenance team will visit the space a few nights a week to give the wall a clean and occasional polish so that it is suitable for public viewing at the start of the new day.
10. The I Love You Wall in Montmartre is a Short Walk from the Sacre Coeur Basilica
Generally when one visits Montmartre they are here to make their way to the top of the hill to see the famous Sacre Coeur that overlooks the city of Paris.
Since the Sacre Coeur is at the very top, the I Love You Wall is the perfect halfway point for all those who are making the hike up by foot. It gives you a place to rest for a few minutes as you bask in the languages of love that cover the space.
The Abbesses metro stop is situated right by the entrance to Jehan-Rictus Square, so you could even begin your journey up to the church from this point and make the wall your first site to see.