Blek le Rat (Xavier Prou, Paris 1951) is one of the pioneers of international Street Art and is considered the father of Stencil Art and a reference point for all subsequent street artists, including Banksy.
His production is deeply linked to social themes, the protagonists of his works are mainly solitary individuals living in the city. Since the 2000s, his artistic work has evolved to become more openly political.
For Blek le Rat, the history of art is another source of great inspiration, as many of his subjects are quotations from the works of great masters such as Michelangelo, Caravaggio and Leonardo da Vinci.
Blek le Rat brings street art from New York to Paris
One of the first graffiti artists, Blek le Rat started painting in 1981 on the streets of Paris, drawing inspiration from graffiti he saw during a trip to New York ten years earlier.
His innovation? The use of the stencil! A new technique that the artist used to adapt the style of American Street Art to the architecture and social context of the Parisian capital.
Blek’s first stencils were black rats, a real invasion of the city since they appeared on all the walls! Rats, like the word Rat in his pseudonym; according to the artist, they are the only animal capable of surviving the apocalypse, a symbol of freedom.
Blek le Rat took his name from Blek le Roc (Il Grande Blek in Italian), modifying it with a play on words: Rat is an anagram of art.
The French artist worked in anonymity until 1991 when he was arrested by the French authorities and his identity was revealed.
Stencil Art twenty years before Banksy: Banksy vs. Blek Le Rat
There are many street artists who value the work of Blek Le Rat. Stencil, spray paint and a great attention to art history are the ingredients of the French artist’s success.
Among the artists who have expressed their admiration for Blek le Rat’s work is Banksy, who said: “Every time I think I have painted something slightly original, I find out that Blek le Rat did it too, only twenty years earlier“. Moreover, Banksy is not only inspired by Blek le Rat in his technique, but also in his subjects… the Bristol street artist has also used rats in some of his works!
Blek le Rat’s most important exhibitions
Blek le Rat has exhibited his works in prestigious institutions and events such as Centre George Pompidou (France), Musée Creusot (France), Kunstverein Wiesbaden (Germany), Cannes Biennial (France), National Center of Contemporary Art (France) and the French Ministry of Culture.
For the first time in 2016, Blek le Rat is exhibiting in Italy at our gallery with a solo exhibition entitled Propaganda.
In the recent years, Blek le Rat has participated in festivals, projects and group and solo exhibitions such as CROSSOVER II, Galerie Kronsbein, Munich (2019), 20X21 EUG Mural Project (2017), The man who walks through the walls, Galerie Kronsbein, Munich (2016), Look Closer, Warrington Museum and Art Gallery, in Warrington, England (2012), Arts and Toys – Collection Selim Valor, Me Collectors Room, in Berlin, Germany (2012), Street and Studio – Von Basquiat bis Seripop, Kunsthalle Wien, in Vienna, Austria (2010), The Cans Festival, in London, England (2008), Urban Wallpaper in Taipei Artist Village, in Taipei, Taiwan (2005), Workshop in The Open City: Models For Use, Koerein Zollverein, in Essen, Germany (2003).