French artist Invader, whose signature 8-bit-style street art installations can be found all over the world, has had over a dozen of his mosaics stolen in Paris.
Invader is best known for his distinctive, colourful tile-rendered works which first started appearing in Paris in 1998. His work often depicts the iconic 1980’s space invaders, or features pixelated portraits of pop culture icons, from Joey Ramone and Woody Allen to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Super Mario Brothers.
The mosaic maestro has previously explained why so many of his older art installations have stood the test of time, with just some signs of chipping. “Given the type of tiles I use, to steal the work is impossible,” said the retro street artist in a 2013 interview.
But it seems if you’re determined and brazen enough, there is a way to steal Invader artworks. In early August, men dressed in fluorescent jackets, apparently masquerading as city council workers, removed a number of Invader mosaics.
The cocky thieves blatantly removed the fun street art from its home on the streets of Paris as passers-by stopped to film them and ask them why they were taking the work down. A number of concerned street art fans shared these films and photos on social media. The local council responded that they had no knowledge of the men or what they were doing.
A spokesperson for the council confirmed to the BBC that “more than a dozen” Invader mosaics were stolen by the gang. Due to the thieves impersonating its workers, Paris City Council has filed a complaint for “abuse of functions”. It is thought that the stolen artwork will be sold on the black market or was stolen to order.
Posting a photo of some of his work being removed by the criminals, to his Instagram account, Invader added the caption: “Those guys pretend they work for the Council of Paris but they keep the mosaic pieces in the back of their Mercedes!”
Invader – who in July 2017 celebrated installing his 3,500th space invader mosaic (coincidentally, in Paris) – has previously said that: “These individuals by removing the mosaics destroy the piece and then have to buy ceramics to repair or recreate the work.” Not only is this type of removal of in-situ street art largely frowned upon by fans and art world insiders, but the damage done to the original pieces during the removal would undoubtedly cause a serious drop in value.
Controversially, in 2015 a local council division chose not only to remove some of the urban art Invader installed around Hong Kong in early 2014, but to also auction it off. Two of these removed and rebuilt pieces – a mosaic of 1980’s cartoon character Hong Kong Phooey, and a space invader alongside the old Apple Macintosh logo – fetched $250,000 and $72,000 respectively.
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