Before the Banksys of this world there was Blek Le Rat. Considered the godfather and originator of ‘Street Art’, Banksy himself has acknowledged Blek’s influence by saying: ‘Every time I think I’ve painted something slightly original, I find that Blek has done it as well 20 years earlier.’ As Blek Le Rat’s work comes to ACHICA this coming week, we take a closer look at the man behind the art…
Born in Paris, Blek Le Rat was originally influenced by the early graffiti art in New York. He started painting stencils of rats on the street walls of Paris, describing the rat as the ‘only free animal in the city’ and ‘one that spreads the plague everywhere first, like Street Art’.
It was only a matter of time before French authorities discovered his identity and in 1991 he was caught and arrested while stenciling a replica of Caravaggio’s ‘Madonna and child’.
An article in The Sunday times described Blek Le Rat as: ‘The man who gave birth to Banksy’. Even though there are similarities in both their technique and concept, Blek is more surreal and a little less focused on social commentary. He attempts to transcend the grittiness of an urban setting and instill a sense of the fantastical.
In October 2006, Blek Le Rat had his first solo show in the UK at Leonard St. Gallery in London. Meanwhile, his American debut took place at Subliminal Projects Gallery in Los Angeles.
Blek Le Rat has hugely influenced today’s’ graffiti and guerilla art and predicts a major art revolution in the next 20 years. ‘The street art movement started 40 years ago in the USA, but we are still only at the beginning,’ says Blek Le Rat. ‘Artists will find new ways to display and sell work that will have nothing to do with investment and galleries. Until then, I’ll keep working, but only on public walls. I’m too old for illegal ones.’
Blek’s limited-edition signed prints are hugely collectable and the original pieces of work fetch up to £45,000.
Shop Blek Le Rat’s prints at ACHICA.
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Angela Murray, ACHICA Art Buyer
View all posts by Angela Murray, ACHICA Art Buyer