Street art is a rarity in Tokyo, where even work by one of the world's most renowned artists is swiftly removed as soon as it’s spotted (like an alleged Bansky rat that appeared near Hinode Pier in 2019). One particular mural of Astro Boy by French street artist Invader, however, managed to hold fort in Shibuya for an unusually long time since its appearance in 2014.
Until recently, the tribute to Osamu Tezuka’s iconic robo-wonder could be seen on the bridge below the JR tracks near Shibuya’s Tower Records. Sadly, the mural was removed sometime in June. City officials have reportedly refrained from commenting on why the artwork was removed on the morning of June 17. However, it's speculated that this could have something to do with an art auction that Sotheby's held back in 2019.
At the auction, a 2014 Astro Boy piece titled 'TK_119' was acquired directly from Invader and sold for USD1.22 million. The Astro Boy mosaic in Shibuya was also titled 'TK_119'. This could be mere coincidence, but there's a good chance that this was just a matter of handing over the artwork to its new owner after a pandemic-related delay.
It’s sad to no longer be able to look up at the familiar figure when passing through the Shibuya tunnel. Not to worry though, because there are still dozens of Invaders to hunt for in the streets of Tokyo – including another Astro Boy piece. Here are all the Invader murals you can keep a lookout for in Tokyo.
This article was originally published on June 27 and updated on August 5 2022.
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