< France's 'Invader' Could Surprise Olympic Games Visitors
By John Russell
10 March 2024

When visitors come to Paris for the Olympic Games starting in July, they will be entering the territory of France's most famous street artist: "Invader." It will be one invasion coming face-to-face with another.

Like Banksy, the British street artist he is sometimes compared to, Invader does not want his identity to be publicly known.

Sometimes working close to the edge of illegality, Invader comes, does his art, and disappears into the night. He leaves behind mosaics made mostly with small ceramic and glass tiles.

FILE - A mosaic by French artist Invader floats in the International Space Station in 2015. (Samantha Cristoforetti/ESA-NASA via AP)
FILE - A mosaic by French artist Invader floats in the International Space Station in 2015. (Samantha Cristoforetti/ESA-NASA via AP)

Many of the mosaics look like the aliens from the Space Invaders video game. Others are very complex portrayals of fruit or, in New York, of Lou Reed and Andy Warhol.

Some of his artworks come from popular culture, including Spiderman, Star Wars, Bugs Bunny, Ninja Turtles, pizza and others. Some artworks suggest deep research, including a portrait of guitarist Django Reinhardt facing the house where he lived, south of Paris in Samois-sur-Seine.

Since the first recorded mosaic of a blue Space Invader went up on a Paris street in 1998, numbered PA_01, Invader has taken over the world. There are now more than 4,000 of his mosaics in cities and towns on all continents except Antarctica.

London, Tokyo, Los Angeles and other cities were invaded in 1999; New York and Geneva and more in 2000; Hong Kong in 2001; Berlin, Bangkok, Melbourne. On and on.

The 4,000th mosaic was glued to a brick wall in Potosi, 4,000 meters up in the Bolivian Andes, in 2021. The European Space Agency installed Invader's Space2 mosaic aboard the International Space Station in 2015.

"‘Anytime, Anywhere' is the philosophy," Invader says on his website.

In Paris — by far his most invaded area — the artist's footprint is larger than ever as the Olympics draw closer.

A new public showing in a multi-story building has one of his works on its roof, visible via satellite on Google Maps. With a telescope, the show's visitors can also look across Paris to Invader's 1,500th mosaic in the city and surrounding areas.

Announced in February, PA_1500 is glued outside a chimney of the Pompidou Center. Unlike many of his other artworks, Invader got the center's permission to put the red-and-white Space Invader alien into place.

"It's a symbol. It's number 1,500. It's Paris," said Alexandre Aumis, the building's security director. He added, "It's got to be here."

Some of those who know Invader say they are expecting him to spring more surprises for the Olympics, perhaps installing new mosaics related to the Games.

Fabrice Bousteau is the editor of Beaux Arts Magazine. He said, "The invasion is the 15 million people who are going to arrive in Paris for the Olympic Games. It's a lot. Obviously, there will be Invader fans among them."

Bousteau, who also directed Invader's latest public showing, added, "So there will be this meeting between two cultures...He will doubtless invade the Games in a different way. I am almost certain."

I'm John Russell.

John Leicester reported on this story for the Associated Press. John Russell adapted it for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

mosaic – n. a kind of art made by pressing small pieces of colored glass or stone into a soft material

tile – n. a flat piece of material that is used for covering walls, floors, etc.

portrayal -- n. the act of showing someone or something especially in a painting

glue -- v. to make (something) stick to something else by using glue

chimney – n. the part of a building that sticks up above the roof

symbol -- n. an object that expresses or represents a particular idea

editor -- n. a person whose job is to edit something

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