Street art: Before Banksy there was Blek le Rat

Banksy – the secretive England-based street art superstar – was partly inspired by Blek le Rat, real name Xavier Prou, 68. The Frenchman, who Connexion has interviewed, developed a stencilling style and adopted the rat as a “trademark” image in his art. Images of Blek's work in this article are by Sybille Prou, or supplied by Le MUR de Rennes.

“Every time I think I’ve painted something slightly original, I find out that Blek le Rat has done it too, only Blek did it 20 years earlier.”

These are the words of Banksy in a 2008 Daily Mail article that was billed as the world’s first interview with him.

The article reports that Banksy is “a huge fan” of French artist Blek le Rat.

While Banksy has given the form new twists, the inspiration is evident, right down to the fact Banksy is now famous for using rats in his own images.

On September 1, Blek did the inaugural painting for the MUR de Rennes, a panel at 34 rue Vasselot, which will be used by an invited street artist on the first Sunday of each month.

His work can be seen until Novem­ber 2. It is the first time he has completed work like this in France although he has taken part in such projects in the US.

Blek is working on an exhibition in Hong Kong next month – and is looking forward to a big project in China for the “year of the rat” next year.

Blek, who was born in the western suburbs of Paris, told Connexion how his street art career came about.

“I had a trip to New York in 1972 and saw the first graffiti in the metro and in the streets. I was very impressed.

“You saw political slogans on the Paris walls but not graffiti tags. It was completely new ...

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