Thursday, April 18, 2024

Banksy Paris

I decided to stay in Paris for one day after a work week in France on a search to find the new Banksy art that was created at the end of June when the artist visited the city. It is always important to find his pieces as soon as possible because they are always outside in the elements and also often vandalized because of the political undertones. There are eight new graffiti art pieces that highlight issues ranging from France’s tough immigration laws to the tragedy at the Bataclan Theater.

The Maison Albar Paris Celine Hotel concierge Fabrice helped me plan the most efficient route and hire a driver named Nolan to start my scavenger hunt around the city for all the Banksy artwork. We had the perfect weather with 75 degrees and sunshine to track down the pieces, which were located in alleyways, under bridges, on signage in tourist hotspots and on the side of homeless shelters across the city.

Banksy always makes political statements and these particular art pieces have ties to French politics in the past and present.  Several of them are believed to be a tribute to the May 1968 uprising like the piece where Banksy sprayed a rat wearing a Minnie Mouse bow under the caption “May 1968” near the Sorbonne University over the weekend, one of the centers of the uprising, which some say implies the decline of French revolutionary spirit.

Another of the new works touches on the sensitive subject of the ban on the niqab in France. It’s a take on the famous painting of Napoleon on the back of his rearing horse as he crosses the Alps to invade Italy in 1800. Except in Banksy’s version the figure on the horse is wearing a full red Islamic headscarf. This piece has now been covered with clear plexiglass to protect it from vandalism.

The one Banksy painting that hit the closest to home for me personally was the image of girl huddled in mourning in a fire exit next to the Bataclan concert hall, where 90 people were massacred by jihadist gunmen in November 2015. I know the Eagles of Death Metal and spend so many of my evenings photographing rock shows that this one felt personal while remembering this tragedy.

The only painting that was completely destroyed was in a north Paris neighborhood next to a refugee shelter that was controversially closed in March. It was of a young black girl spraying a pink wallpaper pattern over a swastika on a wall next to her sleeping bag and a teddy bear. This was a rough neighborhood in Paris and I had issues when I got out of the car to photograph the art. The people outside had put up a barricade and when I attempted to take pictures I was yelled at to leave immediately. Nolan drove me past while I was in the backseat with tinted windows so that I could at least take a few photos of the scene and the remnants of the painting.

Some of the pieces are more festive like the one on the city’s famous Montmartre staircases in the 18th arrondissement, Banksy has painted a rat being catapulted like a cork out of a bottle of champagne.

On my last stop and the hardest location to pinpoint, there is also a faded picture of a rat couple admiring the Eiffel tower in the city of love under a bridge.

If you are interested in finding the artwork this article gives the approximate locations with descriptions of all the remaining pieces.

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Amy Harris
Amy Harris is a writer and photographer who has been traveling for 20 years and flown over 2 million miles to visit over 80 countries on 6 continents. She is a freelance photographer for Invision by Associated Press, AP Images and Rex/Shutterstock. Her work can be seen in various publications and websites including: Rolling Stone, AP Images, National Geographic Books, Fodor’s Travel Guides, Forbes.com, Lonely Planet Travel Guides, JetStar magazine, and Delta Sky Magazine.

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