Trafficking in art

Turning street signs into art

In Florence, even street signs are pieces of art. Playful, funny, irreverent, hundreds of signs dot the landscape. They're all the work of the street artist who goes by "Clet," who saw an opportunity to do something different in a place imbued in history.

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In Florence the hottest new art pieces are Clet Abraham's doctored street signs - playful, funny and irreverent. CBS News

"The relation with the past is interesting," Clet Abraham said, "because, of course, you can't do the same kind of art."

The 52-year-old Frenchman moved to Florence 14 years ago, barely scraping by. "My life was difficult because I was a painter but without success. So, it was difficult to pay the rent."

Down on his luck, he looked to the street as his canvas.

"I make a sticker. I put it on the street sign. Two days after, for the first time in 20 years, a newspaper called me. So, I say, 'I think I have a good idea!'" he laughed.

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Clet Abraham at work in Florence.  CBS News

Locals soon took note of the plastic stickers plastering the city's signs. "I'm trying to give an example that it's possible to make more harmony between authority and freedom," he said.

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Clet Abraham/Instagram

At first, officials weren't pleased. "They tried to remove everything. But I was more quick to put it again."

Today, he has fans worldwide. Clients pay thousands of dollars for his art. 

And now he's even leaving his mark in America. He just installed a giant nose on a Wrong Way sign at a Los Angeles intersection. "I don't make any damage, I just do it better," he said. 

Doing it better … a mantra from an artist always looking for sign.

       
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Story produced by Jon Carras.