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
News
people
News
John Rees-Evans is standing for Ukip in Cardiff South and Penarth
news
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
Sport
David Silva, Andy Carroll, Arsene Wenger and Radamel Falcao
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photo Booth Host

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company offers London's best photo booth ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service Engineers



£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service Engineers ...

Recruitment Genius: Project Director / Operations Director

£50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an incredible opportunity for a ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Administrator is requir...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'