Banksy’s famous beret-clad Haight Street Rat on the exterior of a San Francisco bed-and-breakfast was relocated Wednesday to the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles, where it will be on view in the lobby for two months, building manager company Hines said.
Banksy created the Haight Street Rat during his 2010 San Francisco tour to promote the street art documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop.” Painted on the exterior of Haight Street's historic Red Victorian hotel, the artwork was at risk of being painted over in 2011 because of a San Francisco anti-graffiti ordinance. Artist and street art advocate Brian Greif worked with building owner Sami Sunchild to have the redwood panels on which the art is painted removed and saved.
This year Greif founded the organization Save the Banksy, which raised more than $10,700 on Kickstarter to restore the Haight Street Rat. His intention was to donate it to a museum or gallery. Greif said he is still searching for a permanent home, but in the interim he has offered it to the owner of the U.S. Bank Tower to be displayed in the lobby on the condition that it could be viewed for free, in line with the spirit of street art. OUE Limited, which owns the building, at 633 W. 5th St., paid for the transport and installation of the art.
Greif’s efforts to restore and relocate the Haight Street Rat will be part of an independent documentary about the theft and sale of street art called “Saving Banksy.” The film, currently in post-production, was directed by Colin Day and co-produced by Greif and Eva Boros. It is scheduled to premiere in March; a distributor has not yet been set.
U.S. Bank Tower, L.A.’s tallest building, is an ironic choice given street art’s anti-establishment bent and Banksy’s history as a political activist whose pieces are often layered with anti-commercialism satire. But Banksy is far from a fringe artist these days: In recent years, his works have sold for more than $1 million at auction.
The juxtaposition may be part of the point. The U.S. Bank Tower released a statement saying it “invites corporate viewers, street art enthusiasts, critics and supporters to come together and discuss the wonderful (or shocking) dichotomy of this street art exhibit.”
Added Boros: “We chose this location because street art is becoming profitable -- it’s being stolen off the street -- so it’s a little satirical. The irony is Brian tried to donate it [to museums] for free and nobody would take it. Yet we’re getting offers for up to $700,000 from private collectors to buy it. But we don’t want to make money off it. Street art isn’t meant to be profitable.”
The venue doesn’t really make sense, Boros said, "and that’s the whole point. It doesn’t make sense to steal murals off the side of a building to make a profit either.”
The Haight Street Rat exhibit will be on display Friday through Nov. 28.