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Critical Review

Banksy’s Gangsta Rat, first editioned in 2004, features one of his most frequently employed and easily recognisable motifs.

Combining spray-paint and monochrome stencilling techniques, this Bansky print depicts a black and white rat wearing a New York Mets baseball cap, a chain necklace, and carrying a ghetto blaster. The character portrayed is reminiscent of the New York underground style, popular in the UK in the 1980s and 90s. The rat appears to have tagged ‘iPow’ on the wall behind him in spray paint, an ironic commentary on the ubiquity of Apple products while POW is a reference to rhe artist's print publisher: Pictures on Walls.

Gangsta Rat was initially released in the red colourway with 150 signed prints and 350 unsigned prints. In 2015, the artist re-released some rare colourways. These were limited to 46 pink, 8 mint green, 20 green, 61 orange, 61 blue and 61 grey for special VIP collectors for Dismaland in Weston-super-Mare.

The artist also reproduced Gangsta Rat as a mural in Farringdon in 2004, in Old Street in 2006 and New York City in 2013 on the occasion of the artist’s painting residency: Better Out Than In.

Banksy's appreciation for rats is often attributed to French stencil artist Blek le Rat, also known as Xavier Prou, who is regarded as the ‘father of stencil graffiti’ and initiated urban art in France in the 80s. Blek le Rat's spray-painted stencils of rats first appeared in Paris on the banks of Seine, at the same time Banksy would have been drawing his own first sketches as a child.

Motivated by social consciousness, Blek le Rat chose to paint rats because they were ‘the only free animal in the city’. In Wall and Piece, Banksy said: “Every time I think I've painted something slightly original, I find out that Blek le Rat has done it as well, only 20 years earlier”.

To learn more about Banksy's rats, see our guide here.

Why does Banksy Paint Rats?

Rats have become one of Banksy’s most prolific motifs, they take on many personas in his work: a doorman, an anarchist, a protester among many others. As an anagram for ‘art’, the rat is Banksy’s most valuable tool with which to satirise society, and to make a stand for those suffering from injustice.

The rats are personified and often shown in comical situations, poking fun at human flaws. As Banksy explains in his autobiographical 2005 book, Wall and Piece, ‘They 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.’ The book itself has no fewer than 32 different representations of rats from the artist’s early career painted in UK and Germany. Radar Rat and Love Rat are other examples of his popular Rat work.

Why we love Gangsta Rat "With its pointed message and biting wit, this work is a classic of Banksy’s rat series. While remaining strikingly contemporary the work harks back to the urban art and music scenes of the 80s and 90s, at the same time making a dig at large corporations who have co opted these subcultures to sell products." - Joe Syer

How do I buy Gangsta Rat?

One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways of buying work by Banksy is by using us to reach a seller. MyArtBroker is a curated site, meaning we feature artists that our collectors say they want. You can find Banksy art for sale here. You’ll need to create a free account to buy or sell with us. We offer an in-depth individual analysis on Banksy works and how certain factors have influenced their market price over the years, as well as useful tips on how to accredit an original Banksy.

How can I sell my Gangsta Rat?

If you're looking to sell art by Banksy, click the link and we can help. We employ a number of techniques and practices in order to give a realistic and achievable valuation on any art listed on myartbroker.com. We analyse the demand for the work in question, take into consideration previous sales and auction valuations, we assess the current gallery valuation and monitor the current deals taking place via MyArtBroker every day. We regularly advise sellers on a price bracket for their artwork completely free of charge.

10 Facts About Banky's Rats

Wall and Piece by Banksy

1. Why does Banksy use rats in his artwork?

“I’d been painting rats for three years before someone said ‘that’s clever, it’s an anagram of art’ and I had to pretend I’d known that all along,” Banksy wrote in his book, Wall and Piece.

For Banksy, each rat brings his political and social commentary to life – they present street artists, rebels, the downtrodden masses and anyone who feels rejected by society. On another page from Wall and Piece, the artist wrote:

“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. If you are dirty, insignificant and unloved then rats are the ultimate role model.”

Love Rat by Banksy - MyArtBroker

Love Rat © Banksy 2004

2. Banksy’s Love Rat was the first rat to be made into a print

Love Rat originally appeared as a mural on the streets of Liverpool. It was released as a print in 2004, in 150 signed and 600 unsigned editions. At first, it appears that Love Rat was intended to spread love, but the bleeding heart may be a reminder that love can cause pain and suffering, as well as joy. Banksy even promoted this idea, suggesting a Love Rat print is “ideal for a cheating spouse”.

Gangsta Rat (AP Green) by Banksy - MyArtBroker

Gangsta Rat (AP Green) © Banksy 2004

3. Banksy’s Gangsta Rat has the largest colour variations

Gangsta Rat, wearing a New York Mets baseball cap, a chain necklace and a boom box, is a homage to the urban art and music scene that was fashionable in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s. The tag behind it, ‘iPOW’, references Apple’s i-products, but POW stands for Banksy’s older printers, Pictures on Walls. The artwork originally appeared as a mural in London in 2004. Later that same year, Banksy released Gangsta Rat with a red ‘iPOW’ as 150 signed and 350 unsigned prints. In 2015, he re-released the print in six additional colourways, including pink, mint green, green, orange, blue and grey for special Dismaland VIP collectors.

Radar Rat by Banksy - MyArtBroker

Radar Rat © Banksy 2004