Because I’m Worthless (Placard Rat) Banksy
Find out more about Banksy’s Because I’m Worthless series, browse prints & editions for sale & view the works wanted by active buyers right now.
Because I’m Worthless is part of Banksy’s Placard Rat series, a trio of three screen prints featuring rats holding up placards with different messages, originally released in 2004. The other two are titled Get Out While You Can and Welcome To Hell. All were released in similar edition sizes. The whole series contains 75 signed screen prints and 175 unsigned prints each with red and pink colourways.
The inspiration behind the Placard Rat series comes from the book Get Out While You Can – Escape the Rat Race by George Marshall, a book explaining how to find a way out of ‘salary slavery’. Banksy has reproduced variations of each of the Placard Rat prints as graffiti art in the streets of London.
Because I’m Worthless shows a rat painted in Banksy’s iconic black and white stencilled style. The rat is standing up on two feet, like a human, and is holding up a placard reading ‘Because I’m Worthless’ in bright red or pink writing. The only splash of colour in the composition is a pun of the L’Oreal tagline ‘Because I’m Worth it’.
The rat, wearing a necklace bearing a peace sign, is seemingly engaged in a form of social protest. The rat is metaphorical – a symbol of the everyman caught up in the rat race that Marshall describes in his book, who is considered to be worthless in the eyes of those he works for. Presented like a protester, the rat stands for the victims within the context of the workplace, suffering from injustice and oppression.
Banksy’s appreciation for rats is often attributed to French stencil artist Blek le Rat, also known as Xavier Prou, who is considered to be the father of stencil graffiti and is famous for introducing urban art to France in the 80s. Blek le Rat’s spray painted stencils of rats first appeared in Paris on the banks of the Seine, about 20 years before Banksy appeared on the scene.
Why is Because I’m Worthless important?
Rats are a very common motif in Banksy’s early works. Between 2000 and 2005 Banksy painted a number of these rats – from very small to monumental in scale – on the streets of not just London but also New York and Liverpool. In his 2005 exhibition Crude Oils in London, Banksy filled the gallery with nearly 200 live rats. Here, we see one of his most iconic designs presented as a striking screen print that is highly in demand for its small edition size.
Why we love Because I’m Worthless… ‘Rats are one of Banksy’s most prolific subjects and an iconic motif in the artist’s early works, and this work, with its wry critique of capitalism, is a classic for any collector.’ - Joe Syer
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