PARIS – Banksy is once again sharing his political and social commentary, with new stencil art popping up all around Paris.
The stenciled graffiti marks the 50th anniversary of the uprising in Paris in 1968. The uprising began with students objecting to the reform of the university system. Eventually, it led to a million protesters marching through Paris demanding the resignation of President Charles de Gaulle.
In the Sorbonne University area, a stenciled rat sits atop the year “196-” with the “8” missing. In its place are thirteen dots outlining the number, marking the date – 13th May 1968. The missing “8” sits atop the rat’s head, mimicking Minnie Mouse.
Banksy’s Instagram post identifies the uprising as the “birthplace of modern stencil art.”
Also in the Sorbonne University area is a mural of a man offering a dog a bone after sawing off its leg. For many, this piece is interpreted as Banksy taking a dig at capitalism.
Another piece shows a rat being propelled up the stairs by a champagne cork.
Rats are a common theme in Banksy’s work. Banksy’s pieces are almost certainly inspired by Blek le Rat, one of the first graffiti artists in Paris. Blek le Rat is often been described as the “Father of stencil graffiti.”
His first stencils were black rats, running along the walls throughout Paris. To him, the rat is “the only free animal in the city.” His graffiti inspiration came from a trip to New York City in 1971. Later, he adapted the American graffiti to better fit the architectural style of Paris. His stencil replica of Caravaggio’s “Madonna and Child” is his oldest preserved street art.
One of Banksy’s more powerful pieces is of a young girl. In the painting, she is standing on her bed, painting wallpaper over a swastika. The wallpaper is Banksy’s 2009 design “go flock yourself.”
The mural is next to an old refugee shelter, which closed in March despite protests. The closure has greatly impacted thousands of migrants, forcing many to sleep outside.
Additionally, an image of a girl wearing a mourning veil is on a fire exit door next to the Bataclan concert hall. In 2015, a terror attack inside the hall killed 90 people.
An image of Napoleon on his horse with his face covered in a red robe prompted speculation that the piece is a protest against the French government’s opposition to Islamic veils in public places.
The piece could also be a dig at students of today. During the 1968 uprising they would chant “Egalité! Liberté! Sexualité/ Equality! Freedom! Sexuality.” Instead, Banksy writes “Liberté, Egalité, CABLE TV”.
What do you think of these pieces?