Parachuting Rat

Parachuting Rat

Parachuting Rat is an artwork in Melbourne, Australia created by Banksy in 2003. In 2010 it was painted over by council contractors, leading to local and international coverage and debate on the nature of street art and its preservation, and new measures for its protection. Parachuting Rat is a purple rat with aviator glasses descending by parachute. Banksy’s oeuvre is largely directed towards anti-capitalist and anti-war themes.

Banksy’s work is described as distinctive in style, satirical, and provocative. Banksy himself has written, in connection with his works involving rats, ‘they exist without permission. They are hated, hunted and persecuted … if you are dirty, insignificant and unloved then rats are the ultimate role model’; that ‘you can win the rat race but you’re still a rat’; and also that he had been painting rats for three years before someone told him that the word is an anagram of art.

Parachuting Rat is executed using stencils and spray paint. While earlier in his career Banksy painted freehand, in his later work from the mid-noughties he adopted the use of stencils in order to accelerate the creative process and reduce the likelihood of being caught. His works generally appear anonymously and overnight. Banksy has written that ‘graffiti…is the most honest artform available. There is no elitism or hype … nobody is put off by the price of admission. A wall has always been the best place to publish your work.’

Melbourne is recognized as the street art capital of Australia. Banksy, who spent a few months in the city earlier in his career, described the city’s street art as ‘arguably Australia’s most significant contribution to the arts since they stole all the Aborigines’ pencils.’ ‘Parachuting Rat’ is one of a number of works he executed in the city in 2003.

The piece adorned the wall above a doorway of a council building behind the Forum Theatre in Hosier Lane, a tourist spot which attracts up to a thousand people a day because of its street art. While Hosier Lane had at the time five approved areas for street art, ‘Parachuting Rat’ was not in one of these. It was allowed to remain ‘by exception’ because the council was aware of the popularity of Banky’s works.

While Melbourne has a policy of encouraging street art, it also has a problem with gangs tagging walls and public property. Melbourne’s deputy Lord Mayor Susan Riley sent cleaners to Hosier Lane after residents complained about squalid conditions in the alley. The cleaners were instructed to tidy up the rat-infested garbage and remove all graffiti from unapproved street art sites. Leaving alone the approved sites, the cleaners painted over ‘Parachuting Rat,’ by then thought to be the only remaining work by Banksy on public view in the city, with a thick layer of battleship-grey paint.

‘Parachuting Rat’ was potentially worth tens of thousands of pounds. Its loss was identified as affecting tourists, artists and businesses in the area. An ABC debate suggested that street art is by nature ephemeral; that it should not be heritage-listed and protected with glass; that in restoring a painting you see not the artist’s work but a representation of that work; and also raised the questions of ownership, public art, finance, and the egalitarianism of the selective preservation of works of art.

Within a few days ten replacement parachute rats, in fluorescent shades of pink, blue, green and purple were created in Hosier Lane using stencils, along with another rat in the lifts of 121 Exhibition Street, the offices of the Department of Justice. An anonymous expert in Banksy and Melbourne’s street art observed ‘I think [Banksy] delights in placing authorities and councils in this funny position of trying to preserve his work because it’s worth so much money now.’ He also claimed that there were a number of other works by Banksy in the city and argued that the locations should remain undisclosed in order to protect them from destruction.

3 Comments to “Parachuting Rat”

  1. Many people either are completely oblivious to BANKSY’S first visit to Australia was in 2000!!.
    This is also when he and his Aussie mate and Artist James DeWeaver first met,in Byron Bay!And there’s proof!
    On DeWeaver’s web site,www.jamesdeweaver.com,,or Google “Australian generation x artist”,and he’s at the top of the list!
    DeWeaver has taken the “occupy art” movement to new levels recently,and his Occupy Uncle Sam has become as much a symbol of his work as Shepard Fairey’s Obama picture!
    He has a photograph taken by American photographer Spencer Tunick,now famous for his large scale nude “Installations”,which has BANKSY and DeWeaver in it,and forty others ,backpackers mainly, fully nude.
    It was taken at the Arts Factory Lodge,in Byron Bay,N.S.W.,and this is also where BANKSY “put up” a stencil of a parachuting rat with a clothespin on its nose,against the wall of a camp ground toilet block,later to be taken down in 2008,after owners of the property become aware of its value,to them at least ,and their never ending thirst and insatiable appetite for more and more money!
    It’s been authenticated and valued by a Melbourne auction house for $500,000,which includes the side of a toilet block wall!
    BANKSY and DeWeaver are true mavericks and generation x favorites!

  2. That’s help me BIG TIME with my paper i have to submit Monday next,and i knew that all the relevant info i needed on Banksy wasn’t there!This has helped me out a 1000x ,as DeWeaver’s blog on this period in 2000,his time in Byron Bay that is .Thanks Brian for this great site !

  3. have you seen this video was Banksy’s mate DeWeaver being spoken about by Jello Biafra!

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