Banksy's Rat & Heart

Year: 2014
Medium: Spray Paint
Dimensions: 27 x 36cm
Last Hammer: £460,000 (Sotheby's London, 2022)
Signed/Unsigned: Signed
Banksy’s Rat & Heart. A mixed media work of a rat next to a chewed out shape of a heart. Rat & Heart © Banksy 2014
Joe Syer

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

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Crafted in 2014, this signed mixed media piece brings into focus a large-sized rat positioned beside a heart-shaped aperture, reframing the narrative surrounding this urban dweller. Through the rat, a creature often shunned to the peripheries of human affection, Banksy eloquently speaks for the marginalised, those existing on the fringes of society's warm embrace. With Rat & Heart, Banksy offers an invitation to explore themes of compassion and resilience, compelling the viewer to reconsider the emblems of love and their bearers.

Rat & Heart: Meaning & Analysis

In Rat & Heart, the rat's proximity to the heart-shaped hole serves as a reminder of the potential for love and kindness in even the most derelict of creatures and places. The heart, carved into the material, represents a literal and figurative opening in the fabric of society, through which the light of understanding can shine. This imagery invites the audience to consider that within what is typically discarded, there lies a capacity for affection and the ability to elicit strong emotional responses.

The rat, as articulated by Banksy, embodies the resilience of those living in adverse conditions. It symbolises survival amidst hostility and neglect, making Rat & Heart a powerful allegory for the downtrodden and disregarded. Banksy's portrayal urges a reconsideration of societal values and norms – questioning why certain beings are ostracised and how love can emerge from the most unexpected sources.

The rat's position, turned towards the heart and away from the viewer, may also suggest an introspective moment. It is as if the rat contemplates its own heart, its own capacity for love and devastation, mirroring the dual nature of its existence as both a pest and a poignant symbol of urban vitality.

The contrast between the rat and the heart also reflects on the often-disregarded beauty within urban decay. Banksy elevates the rat to a status that transcends its usual association with filth and disease, proposing that everything has a place in the ecosystem of affection and society. Rat & Heart becomes a canvas where Banksy's expression and socio-political commentary converge, revealing the complexity of emotion and existence in the unlikeliest of forms.

“In this work, Banksy uses the rat, commonly associated with urban decay and neglect, to challenge conventional views on what is deemed valuable or worthy of empathy.”

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

Reflections on Banksy's Rat & Heart

Banksy, through Rat & Heart, crafts a visual sonnet to the sidelined, the disregarded beings that, despite their significance in the city, are met with disdain. The heart, universally recognised as a symbol of love and peace, juxtaposed with the rat, provokes a re-evaluation of what is considered worthy of empathy and care. The artwork, therefore, becomes an invitation to confront and dismantle the prejudices that often govern the human heart.

The potency of Rat & Heart lies in its ability to resonate with the viewer on a primal level. It is a testament to Banksy's mastery of visual language and his acute awareness of the societal pulse. By presenting the rat in this transformative light, Banksy does not simply offer commentary; he provides a counter-narrative that redefines the essence of love and its bearers.

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