The Birth of Paris Street Art: Before Banksy, There Was Blek le Rat

Published on : CULTURE TRIP

For the time being, forget Banksy; let’s talk about Blek, the man who gave birth to many of the world’s most famous street artists today. One of the most influential pioneers of street art, Blek le Rat mastered and originated the art of the stencil graffiti long before anyone else did, and has gone on to influence well-known contemporary artists such as Space Invader, Shepard Fairey, and even Banksy himself.

Thanks to Blek le Rat, we saw the urban movement of street art in France flourish and blossom throughout Europe. Banksy, the globally recognized yet famously anonymous street artist, has even noted himself in his unclaimed biography, ‘Every time I think I’ve painted something slightly original, I find out that Blek le Rat has done it as well. Only twenty years earlier.’

So who is the man behind the iconic signature rat?

To start, it must be noted that Blek le Rat was not born with this name and does not bear any resemblance to the animal itself. This pseudonym is his work name, but when he’s not coloring on the walls of Paris, Berlin, London, New York, Florence, Los Angeles, California and Mexico, just to name a few, he goes by the name of Xavier Prou.

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