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Me and my Banksy

11:46 UK time, Friday, 25 January 2008

Readers of our How do you spot a Banksy? feature have been sending in photos of their favourite Banksy works or Banksy imitations.

catratbanksy.jpgDAY SEVEN: The final mural in our series was snapped in Liverpool by Kirsty Walker.

"This is Banksy's rat in the middle of Liverpool's China Town, a source of great pride for many in the city," she says.
"Liverpool Council in their wisdom have announced that they are covering it up during Capital of Culture year, also ironic because 2008 is the Chinese year of the rat. I think the work originally had a signature on the marker pen but that someone took it."

David Lee, editor of arts newsletter The Jack Daw, says cats and rats are Banksy's favourite symbols. "The rat is like Banksy himself, furtive and clever whilst the cat is the eye of the law, forever watchful and ready to pounce but nevertheless consistently outsmarted."

Painted buildings are nothing new, he adds - during the Renaissance the facades of buildings were routinely painted with elaborate scenes, both mythological and real. One of Giorgione's major works was to paint the entire front of a merchant's building on the Grand Canal in Venice next to Rialto bridge, but it didn't survive for long.

"Banksy's work is not likely to last long either, given its exposure to the elements, but its ephemeral nature is part of its charm. And remember, unlike most of the talentless junk forced down our throats by the Arts Council, we don't have to pay for Banksy's work. He gives it to us for nothing."

nakedman_203_250.jpgDAY SIX: The penultimate picture is one of Banksy's most famous works, saved from removal by a surge of support from people in Bristol. Cynthia Rodriguez took this photo on a visit to the city.

"As an art student, I got extremely excited. Just like I got excited the first time I saw a Bacon, a Turner or any work by any other 'canvas artist' from history books.

"This is the art of today, even if most people may not agree now. The works of Bacon and Turner were not seen as art in their times. I am glad Bristol Council protects Banksy's work, and hope the rest of Britain does the same soon."

The editor of The Jack Daw newsletter on the visual arts, David Lee, says: "It's a modern account of Hogarth's Rake's Progress in which the cuckolded husband returns home early to find his wife in flagrante.

"It must have been no mean feat executing this trompe l'oeil so high up on the gable end. If there is anyone who walks past this without a smile perhaps they should try drinking more."

rat_203_280.jpgDAY FIVE: Banksy and a rat? Have we been here before?

Yes, we have. In 2004, the artist smuggled a dead rat in a glass-fronted box into the Natural History Museum and left it there as an exhibit.

The stencilled mural on the right appeared in Reading but was washed off by the landlord after a few months, says Dave McManus.

"I was a fan of the Chav Rat, I walked past it on my way to work every day and it always put a smile on my face. It didn't really matter whether it was a real Banksy, it was done in a humorous spirit and was better than the brainless scrawls that covered the rest of wall. It's a shame to see it gone."

Mr Lee says he doubts whether it's authentic Banksy. "This one looks wrong if only because the message is too overt. Usually, he leaves the passer-by to decide on any meaning.

"Banksy is no Michelangelo but he has basic drawing skills and this one looks muddled and crude. It could of course be a bad Banksy: not even Rembrandt got it right every time.

"I sympathise with the reader: when there is graffiti with a message it is a small addition not an eyesore. Where Banksy is concerned it is obvious that the public are well in front of the Widdecombes and the law in preserving and restoring the ones they like."

phonebox_432_200.jpgDAY FOUR: Today's entry was submitted by Kevin Towler, who took this picture of a phone box that appeared in central London.

"A company working for Westminster Council was given the task of collecting it and looking after it until it was collected. This was the first time I had actually heard of Banksy.

"I like it because I have had some personal involvement with the piece. Also it is quite a technical piece considering how somebody can put a bend in an old-fashioned telephone box and fit all the glass.

"At the time people were considering just taking it to a scrap merchant until somebody said how much it was worth. It was later collected by his staff."

Mr Lee says the phone box should have been left where it was because it's better than most "public art" imposed by councils.

"Anything that wakes people up to their surroundings has got to be an advantage. As with all these stunts it got Banksy masses of publicity, all of it good.

"What does it 'mean'? The Scott phone box is an icon of design, a symbol of the establishment and Banksy has bent it and driven a pick through its heart. It's basic agitprop stuff and you should never expect profundity from an entertainer who delivers quickfire gags."

lollipop_432_220.jpgDAY THREE: The third "Banksy" is a mural in Easton, Bristol, submitted by Andrew Giaquinto.

"A lovely reminder each day of the very sad world we are living in at the moment, given the global conflicts around us," he says. "I was told the war finished in 1945!! Aargh!!"

Mr Lee says: "Though pessimistic in theme I agree with the sender it is an unavoidably powerful message. I would certainly stop and look at it. It continues the anti-war stance taken by angry young activists, as Banksy seems to be.

"If all graffiti were as pictorial, emotive and narrative as this one, the streets would be a more interesting place to inhabit than is currently the case given the thoughtless tendency of most urban planners to blight our surroundings."

flower_203_280.jpgDAY TWO: The second entry comes from Barry Dunkley, who says: "This is a picture of a new Banksy work that is on Pollard Street, E2, just down the road from Brick Lane.

"This kind of work is great, as it gives you something better to look at, rather than the 'tag' graffiti that litters street walls all over the country, especially in London. Councils should commision more work like this to brighten up the dark and dull streets."

Mr Lee says Banksy was photographed by a passer-by painting this one.

"It was definitely Banksy himself, the burly frame and slight stoop giving it away. I recognised him only because I once met him for a television programme and he was an articulate and polite fellow,not at all oafish or foul-mouthed in the 'Young British Artist' manner."

It is also a typical Banksy in the way it makes a simple point pithily, he says. "I can't see why anyone would be offended by this. Admittedly it is not great art but it is a small positive addition to the experience of an otherwise depressing street."

blair_432_300.jpgDAY ONE: Fittingly, our mini-series begins in Banksy's native Bristol, where Stephen Parsons snapped this last month on the wall of a police station. It was the same night the famous guerilla artist was apparently in the city, signing autographs at a nightclub.

"By the morning it was gone, and so far I haven't found anyone else with pictures of it," he says.

"The style and subject matter is undeniably Banksy, but it wasn't done with stencils and paint, but with thin paper glued, badly, to the wall. When people clocked that this was the case everyone started ripping pieces off as souvenirs. What do you think - real Banksy?"

Over to David Lee for his verdict. "I agree with the sender. It closely echoes Banksy's style and the agitprop nature of his politics," he says. "You never get anything politically profound or nuanced from a youngster.

"Gluing it to a police station is also typical of Banksy's in-yer-face cavalier attitude to the law. He would have to have stuck it quickly to the wall otherwise it would have taken him four or five hours during which he would have had his collar felt by the scuffers.

"Normally the symbolism is obvious but the chest of drawers has got me stumped. Anyone got any ideas what it could mean?"

Readers made a few suggestions below about the chest of drawers and some pointed out the real artist was in fact Adam Koukoudakis.

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