BANKSY (British Street Artist, b. 1974)

‘White House Rat’ (Liverpool Biennial 2004) 
Stencil and Spray Paint on Render 
Size: 300 x 350 cm (framed) 
Estimate: 400,000 – 600,000 Euro
SOLD for € 475,000



‘Whitehouse Rat’ by Banksy, is the largest of his public artworks to have come to market and was nonchalantly painted in broad daylight in Liverpool’s Chinatown, at a time when the artist's modest public profile afforded him the anonymity that only the hours of darkness would later come to offer him. Little did he realise however, that an image of him painting it would appear in the Daily Mail newspaper 13 years later.

The artwork, which in its original form depicted a giant rat holding a marker pen, spanned nearly 200 square meters of a derelict Grade II listed Georgian building which had previously housed the Whitehouse Pub in Liverpool’s Chinatown, and quickly led to the piece being referred to by the press as 'The Whitehouse Rat’.

The installation of the artwork, was timed to coincide precisely with the September 2004 Liverpool Biennial, which Banksy spectacularly gatecrashed by painting a host of works throughout the city at the same time.

By the beginning of 2008, with Banksy’s global notoriety and reputation soaring, the Whitehouse Rat’s fate began to come into sharp focus, when Liverpool embarked upon its year lo ng installation as 2008 European Capital of Culture.

Liverpool City Council had earlier created the Liverpool Culture Company (LCC) to identify the city's most culturally compromising eyesores and to facilitate their urgent regeneration. As a consequence the LCC boarded up the lower half of the artwork, which had fallen into terminal disrepair. The response to the boarding up captured the attention of news editors, and it was soon featured on national television, putting the LCC under so much pressure, that they removed their hoardings, and repainted the area surrounding the rat’s head, in a bid to make the building - and the ’troublesome' artwork - more presentable to their European guests.

By the end of 2008, it was clear that the owners of the building had - quite literally - an asset and a liability in the Whitehouse Rat. On the one hand, its notoriety had potentially drastically inflated the building’s market value, but on the other, as a listed building, the artwork constituted an unauthorised addition to the building’s fascia, which would make its regeneration a great deal more complicated and costly to boot.

The owners of the building listed it for sale and despite a fanfare of media interest it sold for a paltry £114,000. The new owners sold it on once again to Ascot Property Management, who immediately applied for permission to restore the building. The extent of this undertaking soon became apparent to Ascot’s owners, when they established that the lower part of the artwork was completely unsalvageable, and that the top part had been painted onto the stucco plaster facade of the building and would need to be removed by a team of experts.

Watching this debacle slowly unfold were Liverpool City Council, who granted the owners of the building £307,000 towards the property’s restoration and in late 2013, amidst a frenzy of media coverage, the artwork was removed by a specialist team.

Since 2013, there has been much speculation as to the work’s whereabouts, with rumours that it had been re-homed in a newly commissioned Street Art Museum in Liverpool and that it had been acquired by a Qatari collector. In 2018, it fleetingly appeared at London’s 'Rat Bar’.

It has been in a private collection since 2017.



Banksy: Wall and Piece (2005) published by Century



“If you want to say something and have people listen then you have to wear a mask. If you want to be honest then you have to live a lie.” ― Banksy

Whitehouse Pub throughout the years, located at the corner of Duke Street and 60 Berry Street, in Liverpool's Chinatown area




White House Pub was located on the corner of Duke Street and 60 Berry Street, in Liverpool’s Chinatown area. The three-storey Georgian building was original build in c. 1800 and was well known in Liverpool. It is a ‘Grade 2’ listed building and defined as a UK building or structure that is of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve it and therefore of national importance.

The building became worldwide fame, when graffiti street artist Banksy painted a giant rat mural on its wall during the 2004 Liverpool Biennial. This Liverpool Biennial takes place every two years and is the largest international contemporary art festival in the United Kingdom. The Liverpool council classed it as "an unauthorised addition to a listed building”.

The large work, once measuring 30 feet in height and therefore Britain’s biggest Banksy mural art piece, quickly given the name ‘White House Rat’. The image was shown a Giant Rat holding a Marker Pen next to his Red Zig-Zag Doodles and was a prominent landmark ever since. It has been reproduced in several books on Banksy and is been authenticated as a genuine Banksy work. The panel of hoarding containing the Banksy signature or tag was stolen, some years later.



The rat is gone and it won't be back

Whitehouse Pub throughout the years, located at the corner of Duke Street and 60 Berry Street, in Liverpool's Chinatown area




In February 2010, the building sold for £114,000 at auction. The ‘White House Rat’, once painted by the Wold’s most famous street artist Banksy, was meant to be a massive tourist attraction but had been left to rot for years. At that moment the artwork was in a fairly bad condition. The lower part was painted on wooden panels which had covered the buildings windows and were fallen off as the wood had rotted.

On May 2013, after eroding for more than 9 years, a special restoration team were drafted in to save Banksy’s giant ‘Rat’ by removing the painting from the old White House Pub as part of plans to re-open the building. The repair was following similar initiatives in London, where Banksy art trails are a huge draw for tourists and special crack teams ensure his graffiti stays in top condition. Urban art specialists Purple Revolver, who campaigned for the giant artwork to be rescued had praised the move. The special restoration team was assured that the upper part of the ‘White House Rat’ mural could be restored to its original condition. They numbered all the little pieces and took them away to secure storage.

Now the White House Pub has been turned into a new restaurant called Petit Cafe du Coin and Banksy has since conquered the art world, selling his unique pieces for millions, and counts Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie amongst his fans.



THIS BANKSY is SOLD for € 475,000


as Part of The Modern & Contemporary Art Sale.

(Auction 26 May 2021)


view this lot in our online catalogue





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