While his earliest graffiti featured stencilled rodents, the animal came to act as something like an artist’s signature and is sometimes said to be an incarnation of Banksy himself – the ability of rats to avoid detection may well have been part of the attraction.
At the Forum sale on March 5, a copy of the unsigned version of the 2004 Gangsta Rat screenprint was on offer. A 19½ x 13½in (50 x 35cm) work from an edition of 350, it sold on top estimate at £60,000 and matched Forum’s own record for this edition. A copy of Love Rat, also from 2004 but from an edition 600, made a strong sum at £52,000, but the sale also offered an impression of Because I’m Worthless, a print from the same year which was produced in red and pink colourways. This was an example of the pink edition for which the print run was 175 copies (the red version ran to 75).
Estimated at £40,000-60,000, it was knocked down at £45,000, a sum that tipped past the previous high for this colourway – the HK$400,000 (£38,306) posted at a Phillips sale in Hong Kong in December which was held in association with Chinese firm Poly Auction. The record sum once again underlined how Banksy prints are now far from worthless.
Interestingly, an almost identical print but with the words Get Out While You Can appeared at Bonhams on February 25.
This was part of a signed edition of 75, again from 2004. Estimated at £40,000-60,000, it sold at £75,000 – yet another record for a Banksy edition and tipping over the previous high of £70,000 for a copy at Sotheby’s in September last year.