Born in 1951, Xavier Prou (better known as Blek Le Rat), was one of the first graffiti artists in Paris, and is the founder of the international stencil art movement.
During a trip to the United States in 1971, Blek was introduced to the ‘wild style’ graffiti prevalent in New York City, which left a lasting impression on him. Inspired by what he saw in New York, Blek began painting the streets of Paris in 1981, choosing a different technique – the stencil – as more appropriate for the French architecture.
Blek’s first stencils were black rats, seen to be running along the walls throughout the centre of Paris. The rat, also an anagram for ‘art’, is in Blek’s mind “the only animal to survive the apocalypse“. In 1983 Blek began to paint life-size stencils, which alongside his rats, have become his trademark and have influenced generations of street artists around the world.