Banksy's “Haight Street Rat” is Coming Home to San Francisco


Arguably the most famous graffiti artist (or artists) roaming the streets under a pseudonym, Banksy made an appearance in San Francisco in 2010 and painted six images throughout the City; only two survived: “If At First You Don't Succeed, Call in An Airstrike,” [it remains in its original location] and “Haight Street Rat.” The Rat dons a Che Guevera beret, and his little rat phalanges hold a paint pen that, when painted, connected to a line of red text: “This is where I draw the line.” It appeared on the side of the Red Victorian in May of that year, and rumor has it the text had to do with the clothing store below the piece using Banksy's images on t-shirts and other accessories without credit or payment. Not long after the art appeared, a group removed the large section of wall containing the Rat; and now, over four years later, “Haight Street Rat” is coming home — for a visit.

[jump] While the irony isn't lost on us that during the same trip Banksy painted “Haight Street Rat” — which is now framed for a gallery wall — that he also painted, “This Will Look Nice When It's Framed,” the team behind the Rat's return to San Francisco says that it was either cut the rat from the wall or lose it all together.

“In order to comply with local anti-graffiti laws, the hotel owner was planning to paint over the Rat, but thanks to the group 'Save the Banksy'… it was saved from the fate suffered by a number of other Banksys in the city that ended up being destroyed,” according to a statement from Save the Banksy founder, Brian Greif, and 836M (the non-commercial gallery space that will be hosting the Rat when it returns to S.F.).

If the efforts to save the “Haight Street Rat” sound familiar, you were likely one of the art enthusiasts following the progress of the now fully-funded Kickstarter for the documentary Saving Banksy, which highlights the work of Save the Banksy and artist-founder Greif to bring awareness to Banksy's pieces that are sold for profit and the efforts they took to save the “Haight Street Rat.”

But the goal of the group and Greif was not only to save the Rat, but provide a way for it to belong to the public, and not be coveted away by the highest bidder. Greif has received numerous bids on the piece, one upwards of $500k, but he's turned them all down; according to the SF Bay Guardian, he was hoping for a bid from a museum when the piece was at Miami's Art Basel last year, but the fact that (like most street art pieces) there were no authentication documents, provided a roadblock from museums acquiring the piece. And so, the Rat returns home. 

The official opening at 836M (836 Montgomery) is slated for January 21, 2015 and the piece will hang in the window of the gallery — so that it can be observed from the street — until July 11, 2015; admission is free. The gallery will also be holding events and lectures surrounding Banksy and street art from February-May; more details to follow. 

View Comments