Banksy’s Banksus Militus Vandalus

Year: 2004
Medium: Mixed Media
Dimensions: 63.5 x 48.5 x 11.5cm
Last Hammer: Undisclosed sum upwards of £500,000 (Sotheby's London, 2014)
Signed/Unsigned: Signed
Banksy's Banksus Militus Vandalus. A spray paint work of a taxidermy rat on a podium with text beneath it and the text "our time will come" above it.Banksus Militus Vandalus © Banksy 2004
Joe Syer

Joe Syer, Co-Founder & Specialist[email protected]

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In a fusion of defiance and depth, Banksy's Banksus Militus Vandalus emerges as a pivotal piece within the enigmatic artist's portfolio. Unveiled in 2004, this artwork – a taxidermy rat set against a backdrop of provocative text – challenges the boundaries of traditional art spaces and societal norms. By surreptitiously installing it within the confines of a prestigious institution, Banksy not only questions the mechanisms of cultural validation but also casts a critical eye on themes of surveillance, control, and the latent power of the marginalised.

Banksus Militus Vandalus: Meaning & Analysis

Banksus Militus Vandalus emerges as a quintessentially provocative piece that encapsulates the artist's flair for blending audacity with a nuanced social commentary. Executed in 2004, this mixed media original artwork employs a taxidermy rat outfitted in a backpack, sunglasses, and a chain necklace, set against a backdrop of spray paint and paper within a wooden box. The choice of a rat, a recurring motif in Banksy's work, serves as a potent symbol for the underrepresented segments of society, embodying resilience and defiance in the face of systemic oppression.

The backdrop of this installation, featuring the ominous text “our time will come” sprayed in purple, enriches the artwork with layers of anticipation and rebellion. This statement, coupled with the rat's militant attire, suggests an upheaval, a nod to the underclass's potential to challenge and disrupt the prevailing social order. Banksy's act of installing this piece covertly within London's Natural History Museum further amplifies its message. Masquerading as a museum employee, Banksy subverted traditional channels of art presentation and critique, questioning the legitimacy and authority of institutional spaces in dictating cultural and artistic value.

Banksus Militus Vandalus not only critiques societal structures but also serves as a meta-commentary on Banksy's own practice. The rat, equipped with a spray paint can and torch, mirrors Banksy's stealth and subversiveness as an artist. This parallel draws attention to the artist's identification with the outcast, positioning both himself and the rat as agents of change operating from the shadows. The inclusion of “Pest Control” on the text plaque, later becoming the name for Banksy's certification office, underscores the work's significance within his oeuvre, symbolising both a literal and figurative cleansing of societal pests through art.

The plaque's fictive quote, “You can laugh now... but one day they may be in charge”, perfectly captures the essence of Banksy's ethos as a prophetic warning of the underestimated power of those relegated to society's fringes.

“With this piece, Banksy not only reflects on societal representations of the underdog but also parallels his own role as a disruptive force within the art world.”

Joe Syer
Joe Syer,Co-Founder & Specialist,MYArtbroker

Insights into Banksus Militus Vandalus

This artwork, through its innovative use of mixed media and the provocative symbolism of a taxidermy rat, invites a nuanced exploration of themes central to Banksy's oeuvre: authority, rebellion, and the subversion of societal norms.

The work's engagement with themes of surveillance and control, as implied by the rat's militaristic attire and the juxtaposition of the text “Pest Control,” resonates with contemporary concerns about privacy, autonomy, and the encroachment of institutional power into personal realms. This aspect of Banksus Militus Ratus invites contemplation on the broader implications of control and resistance in an age increasingly defined by technological oversight and corporate dominion.

This artwork unveils the paradoxes at the heart of Banksy's practice: the capacity to maintain a critical, outsider stance while engaging with the very institutions and audiences that are the subjects of his critique. Through this piece, Banksy not only interrogates the boundaries of art and activism but also challenges us to reflect on our own positions within these dynamic and often contradictory spaces.


This artwork, through its innovative use of mixed media and the provocative symbolism of a taxidermy rat, invites a nuanced exploration of themes central to Banksy's oeuvre: authority, rebellion, and the subversion of societal norms.

The work's engagement with themes of surveillance and control, as implied by the rat's militaristic attire and the juxtaposition of the text “Pest Control,” resonates with contemporary concerns about privacy, autonomy, and the encroachment of institutional power into personal realms. This aspect of Banksus Militus Ratus invites contemplation on the broader implications of control and resistance in an age increasingly defined by technological oversight and corporate dominion.

This artwork unveils the paradoxes at the heart of Banksy's practice: the capacity to maintain a critical, outsider stance while engaging with the very institutions and audiences that are the subjects of his critique. Through this piece, Banksy not only interrogates the boundaries of art and activism but also challenges us to reflect on our own positions within these dynamic and often contradictory spaces.

Banksus Militus Vandalus: Exhibition History

London, Natural History Museum, 2004, installed for the duration of 2 hours
Bristol, Bristol Museum, Banksy vs Bristol Museum, 2009

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