The rusticated façade of central Florence’s ritzy Palazzo Strozzi—the location of JR’s latest work, La Ferita (The Wound)—stands in stark contrast to the impoverished streets of the banlieue where the French artist was born.

JR, whose real name is Jean René, was a young boy when he began tagging the Paris outskirts, thrilled by the risk of climbing rooftops and making his mark with his friends. It did not take long for him to move on to “street galleries,” or “Expo 2 Rue,” as he called them. Often in plain sight, he would paste cheap photocopies of his photographs onto buildings and bus stops, give them quick spray-painted frames, sign the ensemble with his tag, and then disappear into the crowd.