As Olympics Loom, Eyes on France's Mystery 'Invader'

Street artist's mosaics have appeared in more than 4K locations around the globe
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 5, 2024 7:33 AM CST
France's Mystery 'Invader' Could Surprise the Paris Olympics
The 1,500th mosaic by French artist Invader, center background, is seen on the top of the Pompidou art center, in Paris, Friday, March 1, 2024.   (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

For the Paris Olympics, it could almost be a new sport: Score points by hunting down mosaics that a mystery artist who calls himself "Invader" has cemented to walls across France's capital, the world, and even had carried aloft to the International Space Station. Vincent Giraud, one of the artist's Parisian fans, is already an avid player. He downloaded Invader's addictive "Flash Invaders" mobile-phone game that awards points to users who find and photograph the colorful and quirky pieces of pixelated art. Quickly hooked, Giraud has in just a year already tracked down 1,565 of them, accumulating so many points that he has rocketed into the leaderboard's top 1,000, out of more than 360,000 players.

Put simply: When Olympic visitors flock in their millions to Paris for the July 26-August 11 Games, they'll be crowding onto the turf of France's most international, invasive, and intriguing contemporary street artist, the AP reports. It will be one invasion coming face-to-face with another. Like Banksy, the British street artist he is sometimes likened to, Invader is elusive, fiercely protective of his anonymity, and operating on the margins of illegality. He comes, glues, and disappears into the night, leaving behind his signature pixelated mosaics made mostly with small ceramic and glass tiles. Most resemble the aliens from the Space Invaders arcade game. Others are wonderfully elaborate, such as still lives of fruit or, in New York, portraits of Lou Reed and Andy Warhol. Some reference pop culture; others hint at deep research.

Since the first catalogued mosaic of a blue Space Invader went up on a Paris street in 1998, numbered PA_01, Invader has colonized the world. There are now more than 4,000 of his mosaics in cities and towns on all continents except Antarctica. The 4,000th mosaic was glued to a brick wall in Potosi, 13,100 feet 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," he says on his website. In Paris—by far his most invaded location—the artist's footprint is larger than ever as the Olympics loom, and some of those who know Invader say they're expecting him to spring more surprises for the Olympics, perhaps installing new Games-themed mosaics. (Read more at the AP.)

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