Is There a ‘Banksy Imposter’ in San Francisco?

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There’s a new Haight Street Rat!  But I’m afraid it may not be what you think it is.

On July 5th 2017 a new ‘Banksy’ rat was sighted on the Red Vic in the Upper Haight. Photo: Lizz N./Hoodline Tipline.

Yesterday Hoodline reported a sighting of “a new mural which has every indication of being a new work by renowned graffiti artist Banksy“.   But actually the new stencil has every indication that it’s a copy cat artist…making a simple copy rat.

We compared Banksy’s original 2010 ‘Haight Street Rat’ with the new July 5th 2017 rat, and right away there are a half dozen indications that the new one is not Banksy.  But just to make sure, we reached out to world renowned stencil and street artist Jeremy Novy for an expert opinion, and he also smelled a rat.

Original Bansky on the Left, the new ‘copy rat’ on the right. Both were placed on the side of the ‘Red Vic’ on Upper Haight Street , SF.

When I sent this side by side comparison of the original and new rats to Jeremy Novy, this was his initial response:

“It’s a copy cat, I can already tell without zooming in.”

I think he meant ‘copy rat’, but let’s continue: “The tail of the second rat has an overspray line not attached to anything.  And it has a black paint drip.  All Banksy rats have red paint coming from brushes, markers or whatever.” stated Novy.

When you look closer, the new rat is sloppily done, the lines aren’t crisp, the color isn’t right, and Banksy uses touch up paint to fix oversprays and other mistakes, he’s a professional after all. And Banksy doesn’t reclaim old spots he’s already painted on.

As Novy puts it, the new Haight Street Rat:  “looks like it was sprayed by a novice stencil artist.”

The original Haight Street Rat was saved from being painted over by local art collector and general great samaritan Brian Greif.  Due to city ordinances in San Francisco that require building owners to remove ‘graffiti’ or risk facing stiff fines, the original Haight Street Rat had to be removed or destroyed.  Of the 8 paintings Banksy did in San Francisco in 2010, only 1 of them remains untouched.

Greif paid for the Banksy to be removed and preserved, now he’s simply looking for a museum to house the rat permanently.  Greif made a whole documentary on the subject called ‘Saving Banksy’, it’s all about the importance of street art and the stark contrast between artists’ work and the ‘art business’.

It’s been reported that the Haight Street rat was sold ‘2 years ago’ but that’s not true either.  Greif turned down an offer of $1.7 million for the Haight Street Rat.  He’s not in it for the money, he’s in it for preserving the art.

So in conclusion, the new rat is very unlikely a Banksy, and almost assuredly a ‘copy rat’.  The original Haight Street Rat is still looking for a home in a museum, where it can be protected and seen by the public for generations.   The problem with getting the Banksy into a museum is that Banksy doesn’t sign his work, and that can be a problem for museums.

When the Haight Street Rat was at the 836M Gallery in SF.

While an artist is still alive, museums typically require a signed statement from them that confirms the authenticity of their work and also gives permission to the museum to show the work in a public setting.  Since Banksy as an artist remains anonymous to most, and the Haight Street Rat is is technically illegal ‘graffiti’, he does not sign documents that authenticate his ‘crimes’ or validate art that was removed from the street.  To validate the art that was striped off of the street would be to encourage that behavior, it would enrich money hungry strangers and collectors, while the artist continues to not see a penny for his work.  Once a Banksy is authenticated, it’s value skyrockets.

Maybe let’s take a positive spin on this new rat and call it an ‘hommage’ to Banksy, but something tells me no one is going to pay to preserve this one, and it will be painted over soon.

The only real place to authenticate Banksy art is through his ‘Pest Control Office‘ site.  To see more banksy art check out his website, and be aware that he is not on social media, all ‘Banksy’ accounts on twitter, facebook and instagram are currently fakes.

Banksy’s website

Saving Banksy the Documentary is currently on Netflix

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Alex Mak - Managing Editor

Alex Mak - Managing Editor

I'm the managing editor and co-owner of this little expiriment. I enjoy covering Bay Area News as well as writing about Arts, Culture & Nightlife.

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