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Farewell to the world's biggest Banksy

The rat is gone and it won't be back, says hacked off heritage campaigner

Written by . Published on June 10th 2013.

Farewell to the world's biggest Banksy

IT was covered up as an eyesore, in 2008, when the Capital of Culture people didn't know what it was.

Then someone nicked its "machine gun" and, later, it was bought by a pair of nightclub owners who vowed to emulsion over the dirty rat because they didn’t like modern art. 

Now the final indignation: Banksy's rat, on the Whitehouse pub, has been decapitated. And, despite assurances by the building’s newest owners that it will be restored, one hacked off heritage campaigner and art dealer says the world’s biggest Banksy is gone forever. 

Costa yarn

Six weeks ago, Ascot Properties, who bought the rotting Grade II-listed building at the start of 2011, announced that if the worst came to the worst and the rat had to come down during renovations, they would arrange for local artists to repaint it on to new rendering. 

Their comments were sparked after a bogus internet yarn went around claiming the derelict building was to see new life a Costa Coffee. This, in itself, was enough to send the righteous frothing over their lattes. But it was all a storm in a cafetiere and Costa were bemused.

Liverpool Banksy Rat Hacked Off %281%29The case of the disappearing rat

Three weeks later, the rat, which appeared during the 2004 Liverpool Biennial, vanished altogether and now only bare brick can be seen.

Ascot announced that the head had been removed by specialist restorers and put into storage. But what it didn't say is if the artwork, with an estimated value of £1m, would ever be back.

Ascot spokesman Stuart Howard said then: “We want to allay any fears that we have just thrown it out. We have been working closely with the city council and have drafted in a specialist restoration team.

“The artwork was in a fairly bad condition, most of the painting which was on wooden panels covering the buildings windows had fallen off as the wood had rotted.


“But we have been assured that it can be restored to its original condition and the pieces have been numbered and taken away to secure storage.”

Today art dealer and heritage campaigner Wayne Colquhoun said Ascot's explanation didn’t wash with him - while the council said it was in the dark as to where the rat's remains might be.

 “First of all, the most important part of it is the head - and that was painted on to stucco. This could never be restored to its original condition. They would need rather a lot of Araldite to glue that back together.

Banksy Rat - How It Originally LookedCat? Rat? Machine gun? Lipstick? Marker pen? All present and correct during the time of the Big Dig

“As for retracing it, this artwork – by its very nature – can never be replicated. You can never sum up the spirit of an original.

“The same effect of an artist waiting to be arrested in the dead of night is what gives graffiti art its spirit.

“Destroying an original Banksy to put in its place a copy is beyond a joke. It would be a repro.”

He added: “The boards below may have been saved but will be badly rotted as they were not marine ply and the glue of plywood disintegrates.

“It is gone and a repro is never going to recapture it.”

Wayne Colquhoun: 'You can neversum up the spirit of an original'Wayne Colquhoun: 'You
can never sum up the
spirit of an original'
A Liverpool City Council spokesman told Confidential that the Banksy's fate was down to the premises' owners. The buiding was listed in 2004, shortly before the graffiti appeared.

The council classed it as "an unauthorised addition to a listed building", although the spokesman concurred it was “probably much more valuable than the rest of building”.

"The council's involvement in this is that we provided the owners of the building - Ascot property group - with a £307,000 grant under something called the Townscape Heritage Initiative, which was aimed at bringing historical buildings back into use.”

He added: "It's really up to the owners of the property to decide how they are going to deal with the Banksy."

Big_Banksy_LiverpoolPlanning consent for
retail and flats
Ascot have planning permission to turn the pub – which they acquired for an undisclosed sum – into ground floor retail with apartments above.

Colquhoun said:  “I smell a rat, aided and abetted by Liverpool City Council who need to approve repairs on a listed building, of which this is one, before they are carried out.

“It seems hard to believe that you would do this without consultation to the masses. What is the point of having a planning process?”

“This was a listed building with a famous artwork. You couldn't make it up.”

The city spokesman said that while it does remains interested in the fate of the Banksy, regulations state that the council only has to be satisfied that the work the developers are doing will protect the building itself, in line with its listing.

Nobody from Ascot was available for comment, either by phone today or last Friday when Liverpool Confidential visited their Waterloo offices. An update will be published if and when that changes.

The council that campaigned to bring its Banksy home

Like him or loathe him, Bristol-born Banksy has created a whirlwind.

Some councils are so proud to own his handiwork that they will go to great lengths to keep it on their walls.

Earlier this year, an auction sale of a 4ft by 2ft slab of concrete with a Banksy on it, was put up for sale in a Miami auction room.

Banksy MuralSlave LabourSlave Labour, a spray-painted artwork depicting a child making union flag bunting and seen as a critical social commentary on last year's Damond Jubilee, was expected to sell for about $700,000 (£460,000)

It had disappeared from a wall of a Poundland shop in north London.

The auction was halted after a campaign by Haringey councillors made headlines. 

The sale was dramatically halted just moments before it was due to go under the hammer.

The artwork attracted so many visitors from across Haringey, London and the UK that at Turnpike Lane Tube station signposts were displayed to show people the way to the painting.

Tweets by Angie Sammons here and Christian Eriksson here

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19 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Duke of StreetJune 10th 2013.

I suppose they will say that the building was in bad condition and what could you do. But to put a repro on it just adds insult to injury. Like what might have been. Recreating it is a terrible idea.

TristanJune 10th 2013.

Its symptomatic of our moral bankruptcy that this work has been treated so badly and then when Banksy became 'famous' promoted as heritage or cash-treasure. Lets encourage the next Banksy in this city instead and celebrate the ephemeral nature of streetart instead of always clamping down on spontaneous creativity.

AnonymousJune 10th 2013.

People will be very sad that it has gone

Anthony SchumacherJune 10th 2013.

It's cat.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Anthony SchumacherJune 10th 2013.

Or rather... it was.

John BradleyJune 10th 2013.

In which case it should be recreated another 8 times on derelict buildings until it final expires.

Cat StevensJune 11th 2013.

The pub was called 'The White House' because it was a famous, white-painted landmark for more than a century. It was not called "The Whitehouse" after Mrs. Mary Complainingarse.

AnonymousJune 11th 2013.

For a City Council that bangs on about Culture and which has a whole department carrying the name, it seems to have shown little or no interest in such a valuable piece of art.

RattyJune 11th 2013.

The Cavern Club recreated, Casartelli building recreated, Everyman Theatre recreated and Banksy graffiti recreated. It's like some sort of grim Disneyland this city

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 11th 2013.

To be fair, not everything is recreated. Mann Island...desecrated. Josephine Butler House obliterated Sefton Park Meadows due to be devastated Peel Holdings Dined and Feted Liverpool Waters Hallucinated Jobs it will create wildly estimated Hope Street Feast Terminated Local Democracy Exterminated Mayor's decisions Dictated Elected Councillors Asphyxiated Any dissent told to get copulated

AnonymousJune 11th 2013.

Why all the fuss? it was cr@p to begin with. Like something a child would draw. It lacked proportion and was meaningless. When it first went up I thought that looks awful. Good riddance.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 12th 2013.

Precisely. Why validate the dawbings of a scamming, lucky con man such as this?

AnonymousJune 12th 2013.

No, you mean it was a c*t to begin with

AnonymousJune 12th 2013.

Great how another dodgy developer removes a the world's biggest Banksy and no-one gives a monkeys. It will end up in an auction somewhere. These people aren't stupid.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 19th 2015.

That's exactly what happened - but it didn't sell

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