To the keen eye, they are one of the first things you might notice about the buildings in Paris.
Scattered throughout the city are colorful tiles depicting robot-looking figures and various entertaining images. They have been dubbed “Space Invaders” (read about their creator, Invader, in this interview in France Today magazine). However, you may have noticed there aren’t quite as many these days.
In August, The Telegraph reported that “suspected thieves” are to blame for the disappearance. The Space Invaders fetch hundreds of thousands of euros at art auctions, making them an appealing target for thieves.
Over the summer, several men posing at City Hall workers were seen removing the Space Invaders from different buildings. It was later determined that these men were likely stealing the art for personal gain. Thanks to the ubiquity of social media, the news of the faux City Hall workers taking the art was shared far and wide on Twitter.
Space Invaders’ artist, Invader, has been making Paris more colorful with the mosaic tiles for nearly 20 years. The artist is elusive and mysterious; some of the few facts that are widely known about him include that he was born in 1969 and graduated from Paris’ École des Beaux-Arts. The colorful street art style he is known for is supposedly modeled from pixelated images of early video games of the 1970s and 1980s.
Invader wrote of the theft: “These individuals, by removing the mosaics, destroy the piece and then have to buy ceramics to repair or recreate the work. I have a hard time believing that anyone would buy any unauthenticated mosaic tiles as people could simply go to home depot and do it by themselves.”
On September 6, Le Parisien reported that the alleged art thefts had been caught in the act, and are being held in custody by the police.
Paris – like any major metropolis – is constantly changing, shape-shifting, growing, and evolving. Despite the lessened presence of the Invaders, the city has never looked better. And the mysterious case – now, presumably solved – of the disappearing Space Invaders is yet another interesting tale to weave into the tapestry of all the stories that make Paris, well, Paris.