After Outcry, Bhutanese Government Removes Street Artist Invader’s Work From Historic Buddhist Sites

Many locals were offended that the artist plastered mosaics to sacred buildings.

The mark left on a building after government officials removed one of Invader's works. Photo by @yoezar29, a tourist guide in Bhutan.

The French street artist Invader sparked outrage in recent weeks for plastering nearly a dozen of his mosaics, created in the style of pixelated vintage video games, onto historical Buddhist sites in Bhutan. While a number of observers, including many of Invader’s own followers on Instagram, found the action disrespectful, the artist told artnet News that he had permission from the “chief” monk to install at least one of the works, a mandala mosaic in Cheri Goemba—the oldest monastery in Bhutan.

Nevertheless, officials from the government’s cultural properties division have now taken down Invader’s works, which included a levitating monk, a dragon, and a target, according to Bhutan’s Kuensel newspaper. The monastery “is one of the most significant monasteries in the country,” Kuensel reports, and is currently undergoing renovations.

“It’s premature to say anything about the issue at this point,” home minister Dawa Gyaltshen told the paper. She said that the government was still investigating exactly how the street artist came to install the works at the sacred sites.

Neither Invader nor government officials returned requests for comment on the works’ removal.

The government’s decisive move was praised by a number of Bhutanese residents, including Instagram user @yoezer29 who posted the paper’s story to his Instagram Story account and wrote “Finally! Thank goodness. #invadershouldnotbehere.”

Other fans, however, are disappointed at the removal of the works. “We were worried that people might steal the installations to sell them, but for it to be vandalized like this is so saddening but also embarrassing for us as a nation,” wrote the photographer Pawo Choyning Dorji on Instagram.

Invader defended himself against critics on January 30, when he penned his own Instagram message: “I know that some people will scream that it is disrespectful to have practiced my art in Bhutan. Personally I don’t think so! My practice tells a story, and I don’t know why I should deprive Bhutan from this story. I’m proud to have left my trace in that wonderful country.”

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