“Is Banksy in Paris?” was the question on the lips of many in France and beyond, on Monday, after the emergence of a new website and two murals in the French capital, both strongly resembling the work of the anonymous Brit.
The website Banksy-Paris.com went online on Sunday, and appears to indicate that Banksy has begun a month-long residency and project in the French capital, with a mural posted on December 1st, and another on December 2nd.
The layout of the site bears a striking resemblance to that of BanksyNY.com, set up to herald the secretive and controversial British artist’s much publicized month-long stay in New York in October.
The first mural (below), at Passage des Postes in the city’s 5th arrondissement, bears the tag line “I like wine and baguette, does that mean I’m French?”
The second, meanwhile, is on Rue Piémontési in the 18th arrondissement.
At 10.30 on Monday morning, French photographer David Chapelle broke the story on Twitter, posting the url of the website, along with the message “Someone just told me that Banksy is in Paris for a new exhibition.”
Within hours, the rumour had spread like wildfire among French and international art-enthusiasts and gossip-lovers alike, with some even accusing Chapelle himself of being behind a fake.
Brussels-based IT expert @Amaury noticed certain anomalies in the registration of the Banksy-Paris website, as well as discrepancies between it and its very similar BanksyNY counterpart.
On Monday afternoon, cultural magazine Les Inrocks claimed to have heard from Banksy’s agent that the website, murals, and project were all phoneys.
“He doesn’t have a project for the short-to-medium future,” the agent told InRocks.
Furthermore, PestControl – a clearing house used to authenticate works of art – also claimed the murals were fakes, after an inquiry initiated by news aggregator Storyful.
However, Chapelle subsequently claimed he had received an email from someone claiming to be Banksy’s agent.
“You’ve obviously seen that an agent of Banksy’s has made a denial. The problem is, I’m also Banksy’s agent and we’ve had no contact from InRocks,” said the email.
“It’s up to you to decide which agent is right! Anyway, I’m sending you this photo, a clue for tomorrow perhaps?”
Either way, despite firm denials and claims of forgery, the rumour continued to spread among excited Twitter users by Monday evening.
Whether unwilling to accept the whole thing is a clever publicity stunt by an ingenious fraudster, or perhaps hoping that this is the most elaborate project yet from the mysterious British street artist, for many, the question remains: “So, is Banksy in Paris?”