Italy returns stolen Banksy Bataclan artwork to France on Bastille Day

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Home / Art and Culture / Italy returns Banksy’s stolen Bataclan tribute artwork to France on Bastille Day

Italy on Tuesday returned to France a stolen artwork by British artist Banksy that was painted as a tribute to the victims of the 2015 Paris attacks at the Bataclan music hall.

The chief prosecutor in charge of the investigation, Michele Renzo, told the French ambassador that it was significant that the handover was occurring on Bastille Day, given the need to continue fighting for all freedoms.

“This door brings our minds back to the memory of the tragic and distressing event, and tells us that for liberty, for our individual liberties, we will always have to fight,” Renzo said at a ceremony in the French Embassy, where the artwork was being displayed for the holiday.

French officials last year had announced the theft of the piece, a black image appearing to depict a person mourning that was painted on one of the Bataclan’s emergency exit doors.

A recovered stolen artwork by British artist Banksy, depicting a young female figure with a mournful expression, that was painted as a tribute to the victims of the 2015 terror attacks at the Bataclan music hall in Paris, is returned to the French Ambassador to Italy, Christian Masset, fourth from right, during a ceremony at the French Embassy in Rome, Tuesday, July 14, 2020.

A recovered stolen artwork by British artist Banksy, depicting a young female figure with a mournful expression, that was painted as a tribute to the victims of the 2015 terror attacks at the Bataclan music hall in Paris, is returned to the French Ambassador to Italy, Christian Masset, fourth from right, during a ceremony at the French Embassy in Rome, Tuesday, July 14, 2020. ( AP )

Ninety people were killed at the Bataclan on Nov. 13, 2015, when Islamic extremists invaded the music hall, one of several targets that night in which a total of 130 people died.

Italian authorities had announced last month that they had discovered the painted door in an attic in a country home in Abruzzo.

French Ambassador Christian Masset said the door was a “witness” to the attack but also an escape route.

A mural by anonymous British street artist Banksy stolen from the Bataclan theatre in Paris and found in a farmhouse in central Italy is seen during the ceremony to return to France at the French embassy in Rome, Italy. July 14, 2020.

A mural by anonymous British street artist Banksy stolen from the Bataclan theatre in Paris and found in a farmhouse in central Italy is seen during the ceremony to return to France at the French embassy in Rome, Italy. July 14, 2020. ( REUTERS )

“Through this door which was an emergency exit, many people managed to escape,” he said. “Thanks to this door more lives were saved.” Standing next to the piece after it was unveiled, Renzo said Italy was proud to return the painting to its rightful owners.

“Recovering this symbol, handing it back to the public’s emotion was for us a commitment and today is a great honour,” said Renzo, chief prosecutor in L’Aquila.

The Theft

In January last year, surveillance cameras captured hooded thieves cutting the metal door of the club and taking the artwork in Bataclan. However, last month six people were arrested in France regarding the theft.

However, Italian news agency AGI reported that eight people were arrested and one suspect is still on the run.

Banksy is considered to be one of the most highly regarded contemporary artists, and several of his artworks, including the Bataclan door have been stolen from Paris, where he left many artworks during a 2018 trip. Some of the stolen artworks have been recovered. Others include a mural of a businessman in a suit offering a dog a bone, having just sawn the animal’s leg off, and an image of a masked rat wielding a box cutter, which disappeared from outside the Pompidou Centre. Fans have now covered some of his street art in Paris with plexiglass to protect them. Banksy’s artwork is satirical, and is known to cast a light on social and political issues, including war, racism and migration.

Most recently, Banksy put up a coronavirus-themed artwork in the London Underground and captioned it, “If you don’t mask - you don’t get.”

Previously Banksy also posted artwork in homage to George Floyd, the African American man who was killed at the hands of a white police officer in the streets of Minnesota and sparked global protests. Banksy’s artwork showed lit candles setting fire to the American flag above a picture of a shadowy figure.

Referencing to the bringing down of racist, Confederate statued of historical figures linked to slavery and colonisation, Banksy also posted a hand drawn artwork of people pulling down a statue. He captioned it, “What should we do with the empty plinth in the middle of Bristol? Here’s an idea that caters for both those who miss the Colston statue and those who don’t. We drag him out the water, put him back on the plinth, tie cable round his neck and commission some life size bronze statues of protestors in the act of pulling him down. Everyone happy. A famous day commemorated.”

A new black resin and steel statue entitled "A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020" by artist Marc Quinn stands after the statue was put up this morning on the empty plinth of the toppled statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston, which was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol, England, Wednesday, July 15, 2020. On June 7 anti-racism demonstrators pulled the 18-foot (5.5 meter) bronze likeness of Colston down, dragged it to the nearby harbor and dumped it in the River Avon — sparking both delight and dismay in Britain and beyond.

A new black resin and steel statue entitled "A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020" by artist Marc Quinn stands after the statue was put up this morning on the empty plinth of the toppled statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston, which was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol, England, Wednesday, July 15, 2020. On June 7 anti-racism demonstrators pulled the 18-foot (5.5 meter) bronze likeness of Colston down, dragged it to the nearby harbor and dumped it in the River Avon — sparking both delight and dismay in Britain and beyond. ( AP )

Interestingly, artist Eric McQuinn has erected a statue of a Black Lives Matter protester atop the plinth in Bristol without approval from city officials. The statue titled, “A Surge of Power (Jen Reid)”, is created on the likeness of Jen Reid who stood atop the plinth and raised her fist to the sky after demonstrators pulled down Edward Colston’s statue and dumped it in Bristol’s harbour on June 7.

The statue has been recovered by city authorities and will be placed in a museum along with signs from the Black Lives Matter protests.

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