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  • 'If you are dirty, insignificant, and unloved, then the rat is the ultimate role model.' —BanksyIn many ways, the rat exemplifies the spirit of street art: both are vilified, considered capable of compromising the fabric of ordered society, and, despite repeated efforts to eradicate either, extremely prolific. Like the rat, street artists are also at the margins, often active at night to avoid detection whilst also inhabiting a central place within the urban everyday.

     

    The work presented here, Love Rat by famed graffiti artist Banksy, features the animal brandishing a large paintbrush, having just finished painting a red heart. Dripping profusely, the heart is reminiscent of street art’s execution, where an artist might leave a work wet or unfinished to escape arrest. Similarly, the rat is a stencil, another popular graffiti technique which allows one to complete even large-scale works rapidly. Constantly casting a polemic eye on modern society and what the artist views as its many shortcomings, Banksy has commented that ‘if you are dirty, insignificant, and unloved, then the rat is the ultimate role model’.

     

    From an art historical perspective, the rat is considered a symbol of decay, disease and corruption, further reinforced by the animals’ tendency to consume human refuse. Preferring to live closer to densely populated cities for this reason, rats are tied to our existence and may even be seen, despite our collective repulsion, as reflections of ourselves. In Love Rat, Banksy exploits this fundamental insecurity. By anthropomorphising and representing animals often derided by humans, such as rats, monkeys, and urban foxes, the artist forces us to realise that, as animals ourselves, we too are capable of being disgusting, insignificant and spurned.

     

    Crediting his predecessor and ‘Father of Stencil Art’ Blek le Rat, who began tagging stencils of rats across Paris in the early 1980s, as one of his main sources of inspiration, Banksy has returned to this iconography throughout his oeuvre. At the height of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in the United Kingdom, the artist tagged a group of rats on the London Underground. As one sneezed and contaminated the carriage, the others playfully used surgical masks as parachutes. During a similar period, Banksy completed a new work which featured a group of rats, stencilled on the wall, running rampant and wreaking havoc in his bathroom.  The caption of the image posted on his official Instagram humorously read ‘My wife hates it when I work from home.’

     

    As with many of Banksy’s works, Love Rat first appeared as a mural on the streets of Liverpool. In 2004, it was reproduced as a limited edition of just 150 signed and 600 unsigned prints. It continues to be considered one of the artist’s foremost prints.

    • Artist Biography

      Banksy

      British • 1974

      Anonymous street artist Banksy first turned to graffiti as a disillusioned youth. Inspired by the thriving graffiti community in his home city, Bristol, Banksy's works began appearing on trains and city streets in 1993, and by 2001, his signature, stenciled works had cropped up across the United Kingdom. Typically crafting his images with spray paint and cardboard stencils, Banksy is able to achieve a meticulous level of detail. His clean and immediately comprehensible aesthetic is a result of his unique ability to distill complex political and social statements into simple visual elements.  

      Through whimsy and humor, his graffiti works, paintings, and screenprints satirically critique war, capitalism, hypocrisy and greed. His anti-establishment wit has had an undeniable impact on today’s contemporary street culture.

      View More Works

172

Love Rat

2004
Screenprint in colours, on wove paper, with full margins.
I. 35.5 x 29 cm (13 7/8 x 11 3/8 in.)
S. 39.4 x 34.5 cm (15 1/2 x 13 5/8 in.)

Signed, dated '05' and numbered 90/150 in pencil (there was also an unsigned edition of 600), published by Pictures on Walls, London (with their blindstamp), with the accompanying Certificate of Authenticity issued by Pest Control, framed.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£70,000 - 90,000 

Sold for £94,500

Contact Specialist

Rebecca Tooby-Desmond

Specialist, Head of Sale, Editions

T +44 207 318 4079

M +44 7502 417366

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Robert Kennan

Head of Editions, Europe,

T +44 207 318 4075

M +44 7824 994 784

[email protected]

 

Anne Schneider-Wilson

Senior Specialist, Editions

T +44 207 318 4042

M +44 7760 864 748

[email protected]

Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 14 - 15 June 2021