An Instagram post showing one of the thieves at work.

Parisian Mosaics Stolen by Men Posing as City Workers

Two men wearing yellow safety vests and posing as city workers have been driving around Paris in a Mercedes and taking down works by street artist Invader, reports Benjamin Sutton of Hyperallergic. About fifteen of the artist’s mosaics—which resemble the 8-bit graphics of the old Atari video game Space Invaders—have been removed. The thefts took place on August 2 and 3.

News of the stolen artworks spread quickly on social media. “The city was interpolated on Twitter by Parisians who were asking themselves why city hall was removing the artist’s works. But we quickly realized that they were not our agents, our vehicles, or our vests,” said a spokesperson for the city. The municipal government is filing a formal complaint against the men for both stealing Invader’s work and pretending to be city workers.

The artist said thieves often target his pieces during the summer, when many Parisians leave the city for vacation. He is, however, happy that the situation has gained so much attention: “Things are accelerating now because they were caught in the act and photographed, and the reactions on social media show a heightened awareness among the public. I feel less alone.”

For newer pieces, the artist has been using stronger adhesives and specially made tiles that fall apart when people try removing them. “But evidently, they’ve realized that the older pieces don’t stick as well because they’ve focused their efforts on those. They know what they’re doing, they’re professionalizing,” said Invader.