• gerard van weyenbergh

Did Banksy stole his own artwork

Banksy new coup or legal loophole? Yesterday, Thursday, March 5, our colleagues from the daily newspaper Le Parisien published the secrets of the main suspect in the theft of a work by Banksy, which occurred in September 2019. Indeed, the 34-year-old man would have confided to investigators that he knew Banksy and that he had commissioned him for this theft, without the exchange of remuneration.

Recall the facts.

Sunday, September 1, around 3:30 am, a Banksy stencil representing a masked rat holding a cutter was cut from the metal panel of the car park on rue de Renard on which he was standing, leaving a gaping hole behind him.

In the weeks that followed, a short amateur video of the two thugs in action on a bucket truck was broadcast in the media and on social networks. Six months later, after reviewing the surveillance videos, the investigators managed to identify and place in custody the couple and an accomplice, thanks to the license plates of the bucket truck. At the suspect home, the police found three works that could be attributed to Banksy but no trace of the masked rat. The woman and the accomplice were released, but not the main suspect, who is named Mejdi R.

An unlikely version but preferred by the courts

During his police custody, the suspect, described as gravitating in the world of music and Street Art in Paris daily, told the authorities that Banksy would have ordered this operation after the theft of one of his works from Paris. Indeed, in January 2019, criminals had stolen the stencil of the British Street Artist, who was on the back door of the Bataclan. Banksy had made this stencil six months earlier in tribute to the victims of the November 2015 attacks.

With no further details as to the relationship between the suspect and the artist, this version of the facts is now the hypothesis privileged by justice. Maître Antoine Vey, Mejdi R. lawyer, also disputes the qualification of the indictment of his client: The owner of a property cannot steal himself. However, my client intervened at the artist request. The lawyer even tries to obtain a certificate from Banksy, confirming the fact that he called on his client.

In his article, Le Parisien also raises the difficulties currently facing the justice system. In absence of the owner of the artwork and of a complaint brought by the artist himself, the only legal action comes from the Center Pompidou.

Even if the work does not belong to the institution, it had put a plexiglass plate on the stencil after an attempt at degradation or theft in July 2018, shortly after the appearance of the masked rat .

In September 2019, the National Museum of Modern Art had been able to file a complaint for the degradation of its panel, support of the stencil. This theft also raises legal questions about the margin of maneuver of an artist over his work when it is in the street.

Banksy non-conformism, or the art of blurring the trail

Will Banksy come forward to confirm the facts or, on the contrary, to refute them? For the moment, it is certain is that nothing is impossible with the Street Artist. People speculate around the mystery he maintains about his identity, so much so that in 2011 a user had put up for auction on eBay his full name before the site canceled the event. Provocative and playful, Banksy also has fun with the limits of art and its market. Everyone remembers the reaction that the artist had caused when, during the auction at Sotheby’s in London, his Daughter with the red balloon had self-destructed after having been sold for nearly 1.2 million euros, in October 2018. Anyway, this case shows that Banksy , indirectly or not, continues to surprise us.

Connaissances des arts