Paris has been considered a center of artistic expression since medieval times. The city’s museums house the world’s most extensive collections of art and artifacts, including masterpieces done by world-renowned painters such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, and many more. This city also embraces street art by setting aside several areas where graffiti is legal. It is no wonder that one of the world’s most popular guerilla artist today, Banksy, felt drawn to visit it sometime in 2004. There are two known incidents of Banksy graffiti in Paris: at the Louvre and at the Eiffel Tower.
The Muse du Louvre is the most visited museum in the world that features Banksy art. Almost nine million people from all over the globe flock to it every year to view the more than 30,000 pieces of art housed in it. Nearly all of the artists whose pieces have once graced its halls have passed into the next life, with the notable exception of Banksy of course.
In 2004, Banksy disguised himself and visited the Louvre where he hung his subversive art on its walls himself. The painting was his version of the Mona Lisa. It is similar to the original except for the face, which he replaced with a yellow smiley. In one of his interviews, he was quoted as saying that the quickest way to have art displayed in a museum like the Louvre before dying is to do it personally. His piece, however, no longer graces the museum as it was taken down soon after being noticed by museum staff. It is possible that the curators will once again display this piece on the walls of the museum after Banksy dies.
The Eiffel Tower
Another piece of Banksy graffiti was once stenciled on a spot with an excellent view of the Eiffel Tower. It is a particularly busy place with tourists everywhere taking pictures of the popular French edifice. His piece is as simple one that states, “this is not a photo opportunity". It contradicted what was actually happening around it. The positioning of the graffiti in a location frequented by crowds is very typical of Banksy. It is not known when this piece was removed but it can no longer be seen where it once was.
Other Suspected Banksy Art in Paris
There are several pieces in various places in Paris that people suspect as Bansky art because of the rat icons found on these pieces. In truth, many of these are the work of a French street artist named Xavier Prou, also known as Blek Le Rat. He began stenciling graffiti on the streets of Paris when Banksy was probably still in primary school. He is known as the grandfather of street stencil art, famous in his own right yet not as widely known as the graffitist from Bristol.
There are many similarities between the two artists. They both like stenciling their graffiti in crowded locations. Their art combines playfulness and humor with social commentary. Banksys, however, is more satirical and ironic, while Blek Le Rats has a more surreal quality to it. While Banksys art leans more towards being subversive, Blek Le Rats speaks about transcending typical urban life. In fact, many of Banksys works are similar to earlier graffiti done by Blek Le Rat. Thus, most of the suspected Banksy art in Paris are actually pieces by Blek Le Rat.
Speculations on why there are no other Banksy works
People wonder why only two places in Paris were known to once have art by Banksy. There are a number of reasons for this. First, places where his art was found, the Louvre and close to the Eiffel Tower, did not condone graffiti. They presented a challenge for his subversive nature; areas where graffiti was considered legal did not necessitate such daring.
Banksy is often known to ask permission from locals residing in the area when he puts up his art. Parisian street artists jealously guard their territories, barring other street artists from putting up their work in places where graffiti is considered legal. Furthermore, it is a rule in Paris that once an artist has completed a piece of street art, someone else may replace it with his or her own. Thus, if there are other pieces of Banksy Art in Paris, they have long been painted over.
No Banksy Graffiti in Paris
Today, no Banksy artcan be seen anywhere in Paris. The places where his distinctive art showed up, however, were the face of Paris in the eyes of the world. Knowing the artists reputation, these may not be his last of escapades into the capital of France.