What To Collect Now - Prints & Editions Report


Banksy's 2004 print Gangsta Rat combines spray-paint and stencilling techniques to depict a rat complete with baseball cap and necklace, and ghetto blaster, New York underground style. Having proved its popularity across many editions and colourways, the series reflects Banksy's skilful ability to draw on pop culture nostalgia.

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Meaning & Analysis

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 the artist's print publisher: Pictures on Walls.

Banksy initially released Gangsta Rat 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 in 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 1980s. Blek le Rat's spray-painted stencils of rats first appeared in Paris on the banks of the 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.

10 Facts About Banksy's Rats

Wall and Piece by Banksy - MyArtBroker

Wall and Piece © Banksy 2005

1. Why does Banksy use rats in his artwork?

Rats are at the heart of Banksy's art, so much so that some have speculated about the fact that 'rat' is an anagram of 'art.' While this sort of visual-verbal wordplay is certainly a key part of street art, Banksy wrote in his book, Wall and Piece: “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.”

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."

It could be significant, given this, that while we have seen Banksy rat prints, and Banksy rat grafitti, we haven't yet seen an original Banksy artwork (beyond the street setting) featuring rats. They are the embodiment of the street artist's 'plague on the state' in their dissemination as well as their design. This must be why Banksy's stencilled street rats have popped up almost everywhere that the artist has visited over for many years. Today in London, rats can still be found on Tooley Street and Chiswell Street.

Find more London Banksy murals to visit here.

Love Rat by Banksy - MyArtBroker

Love Rat © Banksy 2004

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

Love Rat originally appeared as a mural on the streets of Liverpool. It was released as a print in 2004, making it the first Banksy rat for sale as a print, 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 most colour variations

Of Banksy's rats that have made it into print, Gangsta Rat, has the most colour variations, with 7 different versions available.

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