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D3C4Y takes over the streets of Paris with his pixelated sneaker artworks

June 10, 2023 6:00 PM
D3C4Y takes over the streets of Paris with his pixelated sneaker artworks

Paris is known as the city of love, but is also recently becoming known as the city of pixel art. If you've been to Paris and looked around closely, you're bound to have come across some stray pixel art. Having started off with the Invader project, the city is now marked by unique mosaic works, including the pixelated sneakers made by D3C4Y (pronounced decay). The anonymous artist explains how his passion for sneakers led to him creating mosaic art pieces.

Get to know D3C4Y

Parisian artist D3C4Y has only just entered the game, but already has a lot of works hanging around town. He started creating and posting his pixel artworks in February 2023 and only three months later there are dozens of artworks hanging in the city. Some on an overpass above the road, others in front of the Centre Pompidou, when walking through Paris you will find several sneaker-related artworks – with a focus on the Nike Air Max 1.

D3C4Y Sneakerjagers

"I love the Air Max 1," D3C4Y says. "I decided to translate this passion into something tangible and started creating mosaic artworks." He follows in the footsteps of the Invader; a well-known – but also unknown, since nobody knows who (they are) he is – artist from Paris. "I have always been a big fan of the Invader's work," D3C4Y says. "After a long search for the best technique and materials, I started to mosaic my first sneaker, the classic Nike Air Max 1 'University Red'."

D3C4Y works mostly at night and remains anonymous. He works under the name D3C4Y, which hints at a term from the music world which is about the fragmentation in the frequency of tones. "Pixel art is basically about lowering the resolution of the image until it becomes blurry," the artist explains. "With mosaic tiles, you can create this effect very nicely."

The Invader project

The Invader, aka the Banksy of Paris when it comes to pixel art, is D3C4Y's greatest inspiration. "Nobody knows exactly who he is (and if it’s one person or more), but you can find his works all over the city. That's something unique," the artist praises. The Invader, like D3C4Y, is an anonymous artist and started putting up pixel artworks in Paris in 1998. His retro-gaming-inspired works are easily recognizable and each consists of colorful mosaic tiles. "It's a very simple concept, but the rebellious nature and the recognizable figures make it very special."

The Invader works in ‘waves’. He visits different cities and puts up several works in a short period of time. Most of the anonymous artist's works are placed in Paris, but the mosaic art pieces can also be found in the streets of London, Amsterdam, Barcelona, New York, and many more. With thousands of artworks to his name, the Invader has become a well-known household name among street art aficionados and Parisians. "I would love to meet him, but it did not happen yet," D3C4Y tells. "Despite the fact that I have been following his work for years."

D3C4Y Sneakerjagers
D3C4Y Sneakerjagers

In recent years, the Invader project has been taken up by various artists in and around Paris, including D3C4Y. "These are my two Bibles," D3C4Y says while holding Solemate’s ‘The Ones’ book in one hand and the Invader's book ‘Invader 4000’ in the other. "Both books give me inspiration and bundle my two passions, as it were."

Sneaker inspiration

With his pixel art, D3C4Y focuses mainly on sneakers. Creating sneaker-related works was a logical choice for D3C4Y. "I have been a sneaker enthusiast myself for many years. So combining my two hobbies came fairly naturally." Nike's Air Max 1 model comes up a lot in his works. "In addition to being one of my personal favorite designs, it is also a recognizable sneaker that is easy to express in pixel art," D3C4Y says.

D3C4Y Sneakerjagers

He recently designed a piece on the 'Elephant' colorway, one that’s very recognizable among sneaker lovers. "Finding the right color turquoise was a challenge," D3C4Y says, as he grabs his own Air Max 1 'Elephant' and holds the matching mosaic piece next to the sneaker. "In the end, it turned out to be a perfect match."

In the streets and pathways of Paris, you'll find more well-known colorways of the Air Max 1. The 2018 collab with Piet Parra, the ‘Watermelon’ (2018), and Patta's ‘The Wave’ collab from 2022 have each gotten their own spot, some better hidden than others. In addition to the Air Max 1, D3C4Y has created other sneakers too, including the Comme des Garcons x Converse, recognizable by the iconic CDG heart graphic, and the Jacquemus x Nike Air Humara.

D3C4Y Sneakerjagers

D3C4Y: "I like the idea of people that might miss it or might recognize the sneaker, Either they're big sneaker fans and know the exact colorway, or they just say, 'hey that's a sneaker,' for me, it has the same value.”

Working Method

Making pixelated sneakers is something D3C4Y does at home, preferably at night. "During the day, I work in the perfume industry. Many colleagues don't know I do this as a side project," the artist explains. "When I get home, I start working on my mosaic pieces." After carefully picking out the stones in the right colors, D3C4Y draws out the sneakers and starts pasting. When the artwork is complete, he puts it in his car and finds a good place and time to place the sneaker.

"Creating or placing the artwork can be very spontaneous," he says. "Sometimes I finish a sneaker at three in the morning and decide to hang it up the same night, too, if it's not too crowded in the city." According to D3C4Y, placement is the biggest challenge. Despite the fact that Paris is full of pixelated artwork, it is in fact illegal to plaster the walls with your own works, and you can get a hefty fine. "At some point, you get a feel for it, which times are appropriate and which are not," the artist says.

So far, D3C4Y has been safe and has never been caught posting his works. "I can't actually imagine the police in Paris seeing it as vandalism either, it has become such a thing of the city. And if they do think so, they can fine me – I'll keep going."

Big Bubble

During Air Max Day, which took place in Paris this year, D3C4Y placed the ‘Big Bubble’ in front of the Centre Pompidou, the building that designer Tinker Hatfield was inspired by when creating the model. A full-circle moment for the artist. "Sometimes the placement of the work is as important as the artwork itself. This was also the case with the 'Big Bubble'."

Early in the morning, he drove to the Centre Pompidou with Laurent, a friend of him and huge Air Max 1 collector, to place the red sneaker on the wall, in front of the building. During Air Max Day, the sneaker was recognized by fans worldwide. "For sneaker fans, that place and that colorway are so iconic. To have your work hanging there is very special," he said.

This is also the case with the Comme des Garçons x Converse piece D3C4Y recently made. The sneaker is placed on the Rue Francoeur, translated as the street of hearts, next to the artwork of Parisian colleague Gregos. “I just want to spread positivity”, D3C4Y says. “I love the idea that anyone that bumps into my works understands what I want to bring across.”

Future plans

D3C4Y has only recently started making his sneaker pieces but already has big plans for the future. The Nike Air Max 1 still has a lot of colorways that can be made, so for now the artist will be occupied for a while. His work has also introduced him to sneaker enthusiasts around the world who are fans of his work. "I was recently entrusted by one of the world's biggest Air Max 1 collectors to place a work in his living room, which is very cool," he said. D3C4Y would also like to one day open his own exhibition with his own works. “That would be the cherry on top.”

Despite the big plans, D3C4Y remains humble: "If someone sees my work on the street and just has the smallest smirk, I am the happiest person on earth. It's not about money or business, that's not the goal. The goal is to bring some joy to the streets." Here, the artist quotes a well-known quote by Twain: "Find a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,' which is how I see it when making my sneaker art. I am passionate about sneakers, art, Paris, and the adrenaline rush I get when I’m placing my art in the streets. That about sums it up.”

Going international

When asked if he will ever come to the Netherlands to install a piece of art, D3C4Y responded enthusiastically. "I would love to bring my sneaker art to the Netherlands. Maybe an Air Max 1 'The Wave' on the front of the Patta store, or a sneaker at the front of the Sneakerjagers office, that would be fun."

Should you be interested in upcoming works by D3C4Y, be sure to check out his Instagram account @d3c4y.prs. On our Sneakerjagers Instagram account, you can see how D3C4Y places the well-known Sneakerjagers logo in the streets of Paris.