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New ‘Banksy’ mural appears next to Bataclan in Paris

An image of a woman veiled in mourning appeared next to the Bataclan concert hall in Paris Monday, the latest attributed to the mysterious British street artist Banksy

New 'Banksy' mural appears next to Bataclan in Paris
AFP

The stencilled mural next to the emergency exit from which hundreds fled the massacre by jihadist gunman in 2015, is the eighth apparently created by the artist in the French capital in recent days.

Ninety people died inside the venue in the attack claimed the Islamic State group during a concert by the US group Eagles of Death Metal.

Some saw the piece as a poignant farewell to the city by the world's most famous graffiti artist, who earlier took aim at the French government's 
crackdown on migrants in another more elaborate work close to a former refugee reception centre.

It shows a young black girl spraying a pink wallpaper pattern over a swastika on a wall next to her sleeping bag and teddy bear in an attempt to make her patch of pavement more cosy. 

Eritrean refugees Ibrahim and Goitom, who have been sleeping next to the mural at Porte de la Chapelle in northern Paris, said they had never heard of Banksy.

After being told that the artist's work has sold for more than $1 million, Ibrahim — who said he could not remember when he had last slept in a bed —  said that he would protect it.



Migrants sleeping by mural

“You can tell Mister Banksy that we will look after it. We will not let anyone touch it,” he told AFP Sunday.

“He is trying to help refugees. No many people want to help us.”

Nevertheless, part of the mural was sprayed with blue paint on Sunday night, covering the swastika and the girl's head and torso.

Fans of the artist started covering some of the other new works with Plexiglass on Monday to protect them.

Banksy, a long-time supporter of the refugee cause, has yet to confirm the works are his.

The refugee shelter known as “The Bubble” was controversially closed in March despite protests from the city's Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo.

She hailed Banksy's intervention Monday. “Sometimes an image is worth a thousand words. Humanity and pragmatism rather than populism,” she tweeted in a dig at French President Emmanuel Macron, who had argued the shelter was making Paris a magnet for migrants.

The biggest of the new works in Paris shows Napoleon rearing his horse as he crosses the Alps to invade Italy in 1800, his face and body wrapped in his red cloak. 

The pastiche of David's canvass, one of the most iconic in French 19th-century art, has been taken as a cutting take on France's ban on the niqab and other Islamic veils that cover the face. 

 

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ART

IN DEPTH: How police reclaimed a stolen Bataclan Banksy in Italy

A stolen cutter, CCTV footage, phone taps, loose-tongued suspects... this is how an artwork by famed street artist Banksy painted on the door of the Bataclan club in Paris was discovered in Italy 18 months after being stolen.

IN DEPTH: How police reclaimed a stolen Bataclan Banksy in Italy
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (L) and French ambassador to Italy Christian Masset take part in a handover ceremony of the piece of art attributed to street artist Banksy, that was stolen at th

At 4:00 am on January 26, 2019, three men wearing hoodies and masks take a cutting tool to the metal door of the Bataclan.

It is not just any old door, but the emergency exit of the famous Parisian music venue where 90 people were murdered by Islamic State gunmen on November 13, 2015.

The stencilled white image is of a “sad young girl” in homage to the victims of the Bataclan attack.

It is all over in just a few minutes: the thieves load the door into the back of the Citroen van, whose number plate has been made illegible, according to captured CCTV footage.

“It was an important investigation” for the officers, some of whom had worked on the Bataclan attack, a source close to the case tells AFP.

By “honing in” on phones located in the vicinity of the Bataclan at the time and then along the route taken by the getaway van, tracked using surveillance cameras, police are able to identify and tap the lines.

A year later, police detain three men suspected of breaking into a DIY shop in the Isere department in southeastern France.

A cutting tool is among the stolen objects and one of the suspects boasts of having been involved in a break-in in Paris.

With a link now established between the suspects and the theft of Banksy's “the sad young girl”, police use wire-taps and surveillance to track down the receivers of the stolen artwork.

According to the investigators' findings, the artwork is taken to first to Isere, then to the south of France and from there on to Italy.

'Like trying to re-sell the Mona Lisa' 

In Italy, the painting is initially hidden in a hotel in Tortoreto, in the central region of Abruzzo. But when the hotel undergoes renovation work, it is relocated to an abandoned farm in Sant'Omero, some 15 kilometres (nine miles) away.

The hotel's owner, an acquaintance of one of the men suspected of receiving stolen goods, Mehdi Meftah, says he did not know what the bulky package contained.

Police decide to detain the whole gang, but the arrests are hampered by the coronavirus lockdown, the source tells AFP. In a joint operation with Italian police, the investigators seize “the sad young girl” in Abruzzo on June 10.

The attendant publicity forces police to speed up the arrests and a total of nine people are detained in France in the following days.

Two are charged with robbery in an organised gang and another four with receiving stolen goods, including Mehdi Meftah.

 

The 39-year-old, with his bouncer-like looks and tattoos, founded the luxury T-shirt brand “BL1.D”, which has an 18-carat gold ingot sewn into the neckline. He is suspected of ordering the theft.

“His accomplices say he wanted to keep the door for one of his houses,” says the source close to the investigation, acknowledging that trying to re-sell such an artwork would be “very difficult”.

“It would be like trying to re-sell the Mona Lisa,” his lawyer, Yves Sauvayre, tells the weekly newspaper, Journal du dimanche, denying his client had ordered the theft.

“He was presented with a fait accompli. He agreed to take the door in order accepted to help out old acquaintances.

He didn't pay a penny,” the lawyer says. At the moment, the artwork, handed back to France by the Italian authorities, is under seal and is being guarded by Paris police.

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