Gangsta Rat Peace, 2007
Spray paint and stencil and screen-print on paper, double-sided
75.9 x 56.2 cm (29 7/8 x 22 1/8 inches)
Signed, dedicated and dated “FOR JO! + BANKSY 07” lower left
Screen printed with the artist’s signature “BANKSY” lower left of reverse image
Phillips New-York: 24 June 2021
Animated and satirical, Banksy’s Gangsta Rat Peace, 2007, exemplifies the allusive artist’s dedication to social commentary and refined graffiti practice. Originally from Bristol, England, the street artist began utilizing stencils in 2000 as a means of quick reproduction to escape authorities while vandalizing the streets of London. Now, however, Banksy has embraced the once pragmatic technique as part of his trademark style.
“[Rats] exist without permission. They are hated, hunted and persecuted. They live in quiet desperation amongst the filth. And yet they are capable of bringing entire civilisations to their knees.”
One of Banksy’s most iconic and prolific subjects, the rat, an anagram for “art,” has taken on several different iterations, often assuming the role of a protestor holding up signs with phrases such as “Get Out While You Can” and “Because I’m Worthless.” While rats are typically associated with the grime of urban life and rejected by the larger public with disgust, Banksy gives the rodent an intriguing narrative. In Gangsta Rat, the subject pays homage to the urban art scene in the 1980s and 90s sporting a side-ways New York Mets hat and a thick chain while hoisting a boombox.
Loyal to his roots as a street artist, Banksy’s asserts his own critique of the art world through his art making. Perhaps the most famously witnessed of his satirical stunts was his Crude Oils show in London in 2005. The show consisted of “re-mixed” masterpieces by Monet, Warhol and Van Gogh. Most outrageous was the accompaniment of about 200 live rats left to roam free throughout the exhibition—a physical manifestation of Banksy’s spray-painted rat infestation throughout the city of London.
On the reverse of this double-sided work, Bansky includes a print of his work Morons, which illustrates a room bursting with properly attired civilians of high society bidding on a work at auction that cheekily exclaims, “I can’t believe you morons actually buy this shit.” Blatantly deeming the piece unworthy of such a high price, Banksy pokes fun at the idea that his work, once viewed as vandalization, is now considered “high art.”