Two old specimens of Banksy street art hidden for many years in Shoreditch have been brought back into public view and Shoreditch Street Art Tours was the only “outsider” present to witness the unveiling. Two images, a huge rat and a TV being chucked rock star style out of a window have lain out of sight under protective wooden sheeting for 12 years though they are perhaps among the more “storied” of Banksy’s street artworks.
The stencils were created in 2004 when a festival was organised in the car park behind the Foundry bar. They were visible until late 2007 when they were covered up under a protective wooden cover.
In 2010 Hackney Council made the preservation of the TV and the rat a condition of the planning consent for the demolition of the existing building and its replacement by an 18 storey (now 23 storey!) hotel.
The TV out the window stencil, a brilliant rock and roll cliché, looked like it was made for that wall, it’s an image that has to be on the side of a windowless building that looks like it ought to have windows. The image wouldn’t work on say a garden wall or a bridge support. Inside the Foundry all kinds of crazy things went on and prominent in the bar was a array of flickering TVs, a TV flying out the window from the Foundry seemed entirely plausible.
The rat has always been a bit unsatisfactory, It has never been clear what this rat is about, it is often described as a rat with a knife and fork but if you look that is actually a jigsaw blade not a knife and the fork is more like a harpoon or a pitchfork, we don’t know what the rat is doing, why it fits at this location nor what the red ring around the eye is about and the technique is a bit sloppy. However Banksy’s street art isn’t diminished by poor execution, they were never meant to be superb specimens of perfectly executed art and indeed evidence of haste is perhaps part of the essence of the way Banksy has to create his street art.
More significantly, Banksy hated the rat! When asked to comment on the closure of the Foundry in a 2010 BBC news broadcast, Banksy sent one of his classic emails saying
“No one ever went there for the beer-it was always a bit warm and flat. I would appeal to the developers not to keep my graffiti. It’s a bit like demolishing the Tate and preserving the ice cream van out the front.” Banksy, Newsnight email 4 Feb 2010”
There you have it, the artist Banksy does not wish the art to be saved and so the council’s 2010 decision to require its preservation is morally dubious to say the least. Note the explicit confirmation that the artwork is a genuine Banksy.
It is interesting to note that the TV image has a Banksy tag next to it and they are increasingly rare out in the wild.
The immediate future for the rat and the TV is that metal frames are going to be constructed around them and after separating the wall from the rest of the building structure and dismantling the walls above the art by hand, a massive crane is going to be used to lift the two wall segments separately over the building where they will be stored covered up at the front of the building site. The developers have not made their ultimate intention clear, their obligation is to provide free viewing access to the public of these two Banksys either within the hotel or somewhere else within the Borough. The developer is known to have planned to include 6 other Banksys from the Foundry building within the so-called Art’otel development but none of the other 6 survive.
For the meantime, make the most of the brief period visibility of those two Banksys in their original location before they lose whatever sense of context they may have had in their original location and ponder the puzzle of why the council decided to preserve this rat against the artist’s own wishes yet remain oblivious to some real masterpieces that appeared on the Foundry building before and since.
Note the knowing nod to Banksy’s TV in the phlegm above, very nice.
This article is a summary of a longer version published on Graffoto blog
30 May UPDATE: The exposed Banksys have been covered up again!
All photos: Dave Stuart