Eight men have been sentenced for the 2019 theft of a Banksy artwork painted on an emergency door of the Bataclan in Paris, where dozens of concertgoers were killed in a terrorist attack in 2015.
The British artist is believed to have been the person behind the image of a mournful, veiled figure. The thieves who took it removed not only the painting but the door itself on which it appeared.
The painting’s disappearance sparked outrage in France. In 2020, Italian authorities recovered the painting during a raid on an abandoned farmhouse in the Abruzzo region.
All eight people who were sentenced faced charges for the removal of the door from the Bataclan or for its transportation to Italy, according to the French outlet Le Figaro.
The theft occurred in January 2019, seven months after the painting appeared on the door of the Bataclan. According to French authorities, “a group of hooded individuals armed with angle grinders” arrived at the venue at dawn and cut the door from its hinges. They reportedly drove away with it in a truck.
“We are today filled with a deep sense of indignation,” the Bataclan wrote on Twitter following the theft. “The work of Banksy, a symbol of remembrance belonging to all—locals, Parisians, citizens of the world—has been taken from us.”
During the 2015 attack there, 90 people were killed and 413 were injured when three heavily armed gunmen stormed in during a concert. Amid the attack, many survivors escaped to the street through an emergency door by the stage.
In June 2020, the transnational investigation tracked the painting to Italy. The district attorney of the Italian city of L’Aquila, Michele Renzo, said in a statement, “The finding was possible following investigations conducted by the district prosecutor in collaboration with the police and the French judiciary.”
Works by Banksy can fetch millions of dollars at auction, making those installed in public spaces a target for theft.
In 2013, a mural was removed from the wall of a London store and later discovered in Miami on an auction block. More recently, a mural depicting his signature rat was stolen from outside the Centre Pompidou in Paris. It was created as part of series installed around the French capital to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the May 1968 uprising against Charles de Gaulle’s administration.
Banksy has largely kept quiet about these thefts, though in 2008, he addressed a spate of attempted ones involving his public artworks.
“For the sake of keeping all street art where it belongs,” he said at the time, “I’d encourage people not to buy anything by anybody unless it was created for sale in the first place.”
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