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Philippe Petit          

Motivational Speaker & High Wire Artist

Philippe Petit, universal poet laureate of the high wire, was born in France and took his first steps on the wire at age 16. He learned everything by himself while being expelled from five different schools. Performing on five continents, he taught himself Spanish, German, Russian, and English, and developed a keen appreciation for architecture and engineering. Using his wire to extend the boundaries of theater, music, writing, poetry, and drawing, he has become an inimitable high wire artist.

On August 7, 1974, Petit accomplished what may be the most astounding “artistic crime” of all time. He walked a high wire illegally stretched between the rooftops of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, making eight crossings over the course of an hour, a quarter mile above the sidewalks of New York. Petit’s book, To Reach the Clouds (re-titled Man on Wire in paperback), recounts that adventure and is the basis of the 2009 Academy Award-wining documentary film, Man on Wire, as well as the upcoming feature film, The Walk, to be directed by Robert Zemeckis.

In the nearly 40 years since the World Trade Center walk, Petit has performed on the high wire more than 100 times around the world in such locations as Paris, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Jerusalem, and New York City where he has been an artist-in-residence at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine for more than 30 years. Petit is the recipient of the first Action Maverick Award; the New York Historical Society Award; the prestigious James Parks Morton Interfaith Award; and the Byrdcliffe Award. He is a laureate of the Foundation de la Vocation par Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, and the French Ministry of Culture bestowed upon him the title of Chevalier des Arts & des Lettres. Petit was a featured speaker at the 2012 TED Conference.

Petit’s most recent book, Why Knot? How to Tie More than Sixty Ingenious, Useful, Beautiful, Life-Saving, and Secure Knots! was released in April 2013. His forthcoming book, Creativity, the Perfect Crime, is due out in April 2014.

Petit’s new high wire project is the Rapa Nui Walk, a walk on an inclined cable set on Easter Island in homage to the Rapa Nui and their giant stone statues known as Moai. Among his most cherished goals is the continuation of his first series of high wire master classes, Tightrope! An Exploration into the Theatre of Balance.

In addition to walking the high wire, Philippe Petit writes, draws, performs close-up magic, practices lock-picking and 18th century timber framing, plays chess, studies French wine, and was recently sighted bullfighting in Peru. An internationally known speaker, he gives lectures and workshops on creativity and motivation.

Speech Topics

On the High Wire: An Unusual Approach to Risk Management

Sharpening the Mind: The Intellectual Risk & Architecture of Rebellion

Don't Be Afraid: Creativity, Tenacity, Motivation & the Pursuit of Excellence

Creativity for the Fanatic: A Confession by an Outlaw


Philippe Petit on the House That Came Wired -

The performer best known for his Twin Towers stunt talks about discovering his upstate New York home, which came with a zip line over the pond.

Why Is The High Wire Impossible To Resist? : NPR

High-wire artist Philippe Petit tells the amazing story of his tightrope walk between the Twin Towers in 1974.

World Trade Center High Wire Artist Philippe Petit's Colorful Advice ...

Joyful adventures are what make up Frenchman Philippe Petit's tightrope- dancing daredevil career. Similarly engaging lives he says await anyone who...

High-wire artist thrills with account of famous feat

Renowned for his illegal high-wire performance between the World Trade Center’s North and South Tow­ers in 1974, Philippe Petit captivated Vassar students, faculty and local community members by telling his life story in the Martel Theater on the evening of Oct. 10.

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