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The mystery of the Black Cat and Los Angeles' smashed Invaders

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When Los Angelenos saw that the Invader had been destroyed, passers-by assumed it was the work of the Black Cat people.

The historic Sunset Junction restaurant was undergoing renovations. Maybe the owners didn't want a multi-colored ceramic Space Invader on the side of their building.

But the restaurant owners are just as bemused and annoyed about the destruction as everyone else. Charlie Conrad and partners bought the place a year ago. Conrad told Polygon that the team "loved our Invader" and were "super annoyed" that it had been vandalized.

The Invaders are the work of French artist Invader. He places the iconic mosaics, based on 1978 arcade classic Space Invaders, in cities around the world (the one pictured below is in London). For many travelers and street-art aficionados, spotting the Invaders is itself a game.

Invaders are not welcomed by everyone in Los Angeles. Apart from the Black Cat Invader, many others have been vandalized in the city in a destructive campaign stretching back to 2005. The Black Cat Invader was one of the last still remaining in the city. No-one really knows why his work has been targeted, though there are plenty of theories.

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"Los Angeles is a bad experience for me," Invader said, via an email interview. "About 99 percent of the mosaics I did there have been smashed. That happened a few years ago during a two month period. I guess a group of people destroyed almost all of them, I don't know why, I don't know who, but it is the only place on earth where that happened."

The campaign against his work isn't Invader's only reason for feeling wary about Los Angeles. In 2011, while visiting Los Angeles for a street-art exhibition and adding to his installations, the street artist, who prefers to remain anonymous, was detained by police on suspicion of vandalism.

The Black Cat mosaic had been spared the destruction, until now. Possibly, one of the reasons was how difficult it is to reach. Invader recalls setting up the mosaic, back in 2006.

Los Angeles is a bad experience for me

"I found it was a good spot with good visibility, a nice architecture, and a perfect size not easy to be reached," he said. "I thought my piece would fit perfectly there. I remember going there at four in the morning with a huge and very heavy ladder on the top of the car."

No-one at the Black Cat knows who is responsible. "We took possession of the restaurant about a year ago and started construction," said Conrad. "During that phase, one day we saw about a third of our Invader had been chipped off and was lying on the ground. So we covered it to protect it. At some point someone came back and removed the rest of it."

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"I think most of it is either business owners trying to keep their buildings clean, or it's thieves," said Daniel Lohoda, owner of the LALA art gallery that specializes in street and public art. "L.A has a gang tagging problem so building owners are pretty vigilant. Also, there's always people seeing stuff and thinking they can steal it."

He does not believe it's a concerted campaign by a hater, or by the City. "Everyone likes and respects Invader," he said. "I'd hear about it if there was something going on. I don't see it being the City. They're too lazy to chip it down. They'd just buff over it."

Conrad hopes Invader will come back to L.A and replace the lost art. The artist said that, although he has replaced damaged work in the past, "that is pretty rare." He added, "I generally prefer go forward. That is why I work on documenting my work. The pictures, info and stories about an artwork will last forever even if the actual mosaic has gone."

The Black Cat was once a noted gay bar, and the scene of a famous riot, back in the late 1960s' when patrons celebrating a New Year's Eve party took exception to some plain-clothes cops arresting guys for kissing.

Jon Gibson is a local artist, best known as co-founder of creative production company iam8bit. When he saw that the Black Cat Invader had been vandalized, he posted images on his Facebook page, and went down to the restaurant to try to figure out why it had been destroyed.

"When I talked to Charlie he said that there are bandits running around L.A destroying other ones as well," he said. "It's sad, at the very least. It seems like a lot of effort to go through. It takes considerable effort to get up there and destroy. Invaders are generally 10, 15 feet high and require ladders and ninja maneuvers."

"A of people thought we had done it and that's annoying," said Conrad. "I live here, behind the Black Cat and we love it. Are you kidding? It's pretty upsetting that someone has vandalized it and on top of that for people to think we're the sort of assholes that would do that."

"I feel sad, of course," said Invader. "It had been there for seven years, then it was now adopted by its surrounding. It is sad for me and for the thousands of passers-by who won't be able to see it anymore."