BANKSY

Banksy paints London tube as stolen mural returned from Italy to France on Bastille Day

British street artist Banksy has graffitied the London Underground, while dressed as a professional cleaner, to send a message about the need to wear face masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

In the video posted to his Instagram page, Banksy is shown stencilling images of his signature rats on train carriages, sneezing and wearing protective face masks.

The artist even managed to avoid some inquisitive passengers by motioning at them to move away from the work he was doing.

The video of the work, entitled 'If you don't mask — you don't get', finishes with the words: "I get locked down, but I get up again."

Face masks were made compulsory for passengers on London's public transport system in mid-June.

 

Key points:

  • Banksy has increasingly done coronavirus-themed artworks as the pandemic hits his native UK
  • France called the Bastille Day return of his work, originally painted at the site of the 2015 Paris terror attacks, "very moving"
  • Bastille Day celebrations this year focused on the heroes of COVID-19, rather than the military

 

Bataclan theatre door returned

The ever-moving London artwork came on the same day Italy handed back to France a Banksy mural that had been stolen from the Paris Bataclan theatre, where militant Islamist gunmen killed scores of people in an attack in November 2015.

In June 2018, Banksy created a mural of a veiled female figure in a mournful pose on a fire-exit door of the concert venue where 90 people were killed in one of the coordinated attacks which caused 130 fatalities in the French capital.

The door, stolen in January 2019, was found last month in a farmhouse by the Italian police and given to the French ambassador in Rome on France's most important national holiday, Bastille Day.

"It is a very moving moment to get back this door on our national holiday … it was witness to the massacre that claimed the lives of 90 people," French Ambassador to Rome Christian Masset said during a ceremony at the embassy.

 

"Many people in the audience escaped through this emergency door. It has lived, heard and seen the whole massacre," he added.

 

L'Aquila Prosecutor Michele Renzo previously said authorities believed the motivation for the theft was financial, not ideological.

Banksy, whose real identity is unknown, has become one of the most well-known personalities of the modern art scene with a series of inspired works in public places that combine street art techniques with topical themes.

 

Last month, he published a new artwork online as people around the world protested the killing of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while detaining him on May 25.

In April, he did some 'work from home' themed works to mark the coronavirus pandemic.

 

France marks Bastille Day

 

While the French celebrated the return of the stolen artwork it was a more demure and scaled-down Bastille Day celebration, with none of the usual tanks and troops parading down Paris's Champs Elysees avenue.

Instead, President Emmanuel Macron, standing in the back of a military jeep, reviewed ranks of socially-distanced troops in the Place de la Concorde square after military aircraft flew overhead.

 

Medics in white coats replaced uniformed soldiers as the stars of the ceremonies, which honoured health professionals who died fighting COVID-19, as well as supermarket cashiers and postal workers.

"I wish, with all the French, with the armies themselves, to pay a vibrant tribute to health workers and those who, in all sectors, have enabled public, social and economic life to continue," Mr Macron said in message released ahead of the parade.

 

"The dedication, tenacity, courage, solidarity that emerged strongly everywhere, in our cities as in our countryside, command admiration."

 

It is the first time since 1980 that the annual parade has not been held along the Champs Elysees.

Spectators were not allowed near Place de la Concorde, Paris's largest square, to avoid the spread of the disease that has killed at least 30,000 people in France.

Mr Macron nevertheless sought to highlight France's successes in combating its worst crisis since World War II.

 

Fighter jets painted the sky with blue-white-and-red smoke, and were joined by helicopters that had transported COVID-19 patients in distress.

Bastille Day, or the French National Day, dates back to the 1789 revolution.

 

On that day, citizens stormed the Bastille fortress, which was used to detain prisoners and had become a symbol of the harsh rule of the French monarchy.

July 14, 2020