Rats to the arts establishment

The first gallery exhibition of the British graffiti artist Banksy opens in London today - but, as might be expected, it is a strange affair, with doctored old masters and unusual guests. By Louise Jury

But just in case anyone thought he had lost his sense of humour or his rebel yell, visitors to his first-ever show in a proper gallery will have to endure 164 other unusual visitors - rats.

The rats, which are stage animals provided by a company that supplies films and theatres, mean that the temporary gallery at 100 Westbourne Grove, west London, is much more smelly than any you will find in Cork Street or Mayfair. "Rats are the triumph of the little people, the undesirables and the unloved," the artist said in a statement yesterday. "They are the ultimate role model. Despite the best efforts of the authorities, they have survived, flourished and brought entire civilisations to their knees."

The paintings, as might have been expected, also have the subversive quality for which Banksy is famed. His previous work includes a hoax rock painting depicting a spear-wielding caveman pushing a supermarket trolley which he planted in the British Museum earlier this year and graffiti on the Israeli separation wall depicting children breaking through.

For his venture into oils, under the title Crude Oils: A Gallery of Re-mixed Masterpieces, Vandalism and Vermin, Banksy takes nearly two-dozen classic works of art and, as the title suggests, re-works them.

Thus all of Van Gogh's famous sunflowers are portrayed dead, the landscape in one of Monet's water lily scenes is littered with shopping trolleys and traffic cones, and Edward Hopper's atmospheric Nighthawks is augmented by an angry man in Union Jack boxer shorts who has just broken the bar window with a chair.

Even the Scottish self-taught artist Jack Vettriano does not escape the Banksy treatment. His famous Singing Butler scene, which has been circulated in thousands of postcards and posters, has a couple of men in hazard suits on the butler's beach, while the artist replaces Marilyn Monroe, as depicted by Andy Warhol, with the model Kate Moss.

A spokeswoman for the artist said this new work began two years ago when Banksy was forced - for an unspecified reason - to spend a bit of time indoors and began vandalising oil paintings. From there he progressed to bringing his graffiti writer's touch to bear on paintings found in London fleamarkets and when the supply ran dry he started painting oils himself.

Despite his background of working mainly on the streets in an art form not yet widely accepted as legitimate, Banksy has no objection to making money from his work. Half of the 22 works had been sold even before the public opening, fetching between £10,000 and £22,000.

The artist is notoriously elusive about the facts of his identity. He has been named as Robert Banks, about 30, with a few arrest warrants to his name. He may - or may not - have grown up in Bristol.

He was willing to offer one piece of information for consideration yesterday. "Fact; wherever you stand in London, you're never more than 10 feet way from someone who knows a boring fact about rats."

Although he publicised last night's traditional private view on his website, he warned potential freeloaders: "The gallery has a very limited capacity and there are only 40 bottles of cheap red wine to go round.

"If you want to seriously look at the paintings, you're advised to come the following day."

His exhibition opens to the public today for 12 days.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor