Rat & Heart, 2014
Spray paint, emulsion and collage on board, in artist’s inner frame
Artist’s inner frame: 27×36 cm (10 ⅝ x 14 ⅛ inches)
Framed: 38.4 x 47.5 cm (15 ⅛ x 18 ¾ inches)
Signed and dedicated on the reverse
Sotheby’s London: 3 March 2022
“They exist without permission. They are hated, hunted and persecuted. They live in quiet desperation among the filth. And yet they are capable of bringing entire civilizations to their knees. If you are dirty, insignificant and unloved then rats are the ultimate role model.”
Hidden in alleyways and moving in anonymity through the most undesired routes of the urban environment, the rat is a potent symbol for the neglected and unseen and are amongst the most prolific motifs in Banksy’s oeuvre. Hunted down by authorities, considered nuisances by society, and looked down upon by the establishment, Banksy and street art seem to form a sense of comradery with the rats. Banksy’s rats carry paint brushes and spray paint cans, accompanied by phrases such as “Our time will come” or “Get out while you can.” Other times, they are simply jamming with a stereo or snapping a photo. Voicing his messages through these small, playful and rebellious creatures, the artist humorously invites us to join their underground revolution. In the present work, the rat has gnawed out a heart through the cardboard. A small but affectionate gesture, the rat conveys a message of love. Coming from the most unloved creatures of the city, the work is a particularly touching statement, offering consolation from the brutal realities of modern life. At the heart of Banky’s practice is hope for a better future, executed through moments of comical, ridiculous and at times heart-warming illustrations.
Teetering between acclaim and notoriety, Bansky is known for his satirical street art and graffiti. The artist has risen to a legendary status in contemporary art, making socio-political commentaries which humorously disturb and disrupt the status quo. Banksy’s work fits into a rich and venerable history of political parody and follows a long lineage of British pictorial satirists – from Thomas Rowlandson, James Gillray and William Hogarth, the artist carries on the legacy of artists to critique and comfort modern day society.