Paris’s Cat-Obsessed Street Artist M. Chat on Trial for Graffiti

Some powerful fans are rallying to his cause.

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A mural by M. Chat.
Photo: Damien Roué, Flickr.
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M. Chat’s murals in the Châtelet metro stop.
Photo: Perry Tak, Flickr.

The Franco-Swiss artist Thoma Vuille, better known by his street art moniker M. Chat (or Mr. Cat), is in hot water with Paris’s public transportation authority, the Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP). After the famed artist’s trademark murals of a yellow cat turned up in one of the city’s busiest metro stations, he was hit with a €1,800 ($2,360) fine, which he is refusing to pay. Now fans, including at least one elected official, are rallying to his cause.

“I am not a malevolent person,” Vuille told Le Figaro. “I respect people and the places where I paint. I passed through the Châtelet stop three months ago when construction was beginning. I found the gray walls sad, and in any case I knew they were going to cover my murals up with tiles.”

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A mural by M. Chat.
Photo: [l a u r a], Flickr.

Parisian authorities are taking his unauthorized feline murals far more seriously, though. Vuille was arrested earlier this summer and had his first hearing on August 7. While the judge has come down hard on the street artist, the mayor of Paris’s 13th arrondissement, Jérôme Coumet, has vowed to come out in support when his trial begins in October.

Vuille, who is 37, began painting his distinctive smiling yellow cat in Orléans in 1997. Since then it has appeared on city walls throughout France and the world, from Brazil and Senegal to New York City, and was even the subject of a 2004 Chris Marker documentary, The Case of the Grinning Cat. Now the artist’s fans are circulating a petition calling on the RATP to retract its complaint against him. As of this writing, it had more than 6,700 signatures.

According to the artist, “The people who say that my graffiti is dirty never take the metro.”

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A mural by M. Chat.
Photo: Damien Roué, Flickr.


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