Banksy is keeping busy during his Parisian séjour. Today, he finally confirmed on Instagram that he is indeed in the French capital, posting two images of a mischievous rat wielding a box cutter painted on the back of a traffic sign next to the Centre Pompidou, which houses France’s national museum of modern and contemporary art. The caption on one of the posts suggests the work is a tribute to the May 1968 protest movement in France: “Fifty years since the uprising in Paris 1968. The birthplace of modern stencil art.”
Another (unconfirmed) work believed to be by the British street artist was found on one of the emergency exit doors of the Bataclan, the concert venue where 89 people were killed in a November 2015 terrorist attack. It features a veiled female figure who appears to be in mourning. It is markedly more somber and restrained than the other recent murals attributed to Banksy throughout Paris, which have included elaborate art historical references and very brash political commentary.
In fact, at least one of those earlier murals attributed to Banksy has already been defaced: the one of a girl painting over a swastika with a pink wallpaper pattern has been partially obscured by blue and brown pray paint. Half of one of the smaller rat murals, in which a rat rides the flying cork of a popped champagne bottle, appears to have been scrapped off the wall completely.
A few days ago, several #graffiti in the style of artist #banksy popped up all over Paris. As I happen to be in Paris in between some gigs in Europe working on my next books, I decided to hunt those graffiti down. Interesting fact: all three graffiti are in ethnically diverse neighborhoods… The most heartbreaking one is this, as it already was defaced. It originally showed a black girl painting over a swastika with Arab(?) ornaments. The painting barely survived 2 days without being vandalized.
Other rumored Banksy murals, however, have already gained protective plexiglass shields. A video report by Le Monde shows the murals of a man offering a dog a bone and of a rat wearing a colorful bow beneath the text “mai 1968” are being preserved, for now. And recent Instagram photos suggest that the largest of the new murals, a reference to Jacques-Louis David’s iconic equestrian portrait “Napoleon Crossing the Alps,” has also been covered with a plexiglass sheet.