“Invader” was in … Potosi

31 January 2022


A street art legend in Bolivia

In January 2022, French street art legend Space Invader was in Bolivia. He is known the world over for his ceramics, which draw much of their inspiration from the world of video games, cartoons and popular culture in general. After his first works in the streets of Paris more than 20 years ago, the artist has installed his ceramics in dozens of cities around the world, in Europe, the United States, Australia, Asia and elsewhere. In South America, no city other than Sao Paulo had yet been invaded by the artist, nor Bogota, nor Medellin, nor Valparaiso, famous for its street art, nor even Buenos Aires, and it is in the colonial city of Potosi that the Frenchman has decided to install around fifty mosaics in January 2022. The reason? Altitude. Potosi is often considered to be the highest city in the world, along with El Alto, and is situated at an altitude of 4,000 metres. Before Potosi, Space Invader had produced a total of 3,999 ceramics, so it was a logical choice for Potosi. The 4,000th work at an altitude of 4,000 metres – what a symbol!

An atypical career

He laid his first mosaic in Paris in 1996, followed by many others. When he lays mosaics in a city, he calls it an invasion. Paris is under permanent invasion, and other cities are invaded in waves. Most of Europe’s major cities and several of the world’s major metropolises have been invaded in this way over the last 20 years. He became increasingly well known, and this led to some ground-breaking achievements, such as placing a work on the Eiffel Tower or on board the International Space Station. He also sold some of his works to galleries, made up of Rubiks Cube, and took part in exhibitions around the world. To remain anonymous, he always appears masked.

The imperial town of Potosi

Often considered to be the highest city in the world, although El Alto and Cerro de Pasco are a little higher, Potosi is a city that is particularly popular with history and architecture lovers. During the colonial era, it was one of the largest and most densely populated cities in the world. Its mine, Cerro Rico, was a city of great wealth, and most of the silver coins used in Europe at the time came from there. Today, the town still makes its living from the Cerro Rico mine, but it has lost its former splendour, although there are still many vestiges of the colonial era, including old buildings and museums. It is one of Bolivia’s major attractions and, along with the town of Sucre, which is around 3 hours away by road, is the best example of colonial architecture in the country, and an essential part of a tour of Bolivia, between the magnificent white city of Sucre and the Salar de Uyuni.

Tour of street art in Potosi

Many of his works depict characters or objects typical of Bolivia or the region, but in a Space Invader version, pixelated, simplified and funny, llamas, cholitas, miners or even caiman bottles are represented in turn and scattered around the imperial city.

Why not include a tour of the mosaics in your next trip to Potosi? In “treasure hunt” mode, of course. We won’t help you locate the mosaics. Or combine a more traditional tour of the city with a visit to some of the most striking works. There are more than 50 Space Invaders scattered around Potosi, in the suburbs, near the mine and in the historic centre. Some of them, like the 4,000th, will give you a great view of the mining town, while others will give you a view of the Cerro Rico.