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Banksy's Haight Street Rat coming to Winter Haven gallery

 
The Outer Space Gallery in Winter Haven is getting an original piece by famed anonymous graffiti artist Banksy. "Haight Street Rat" will be on display on the section of a Victorian San Francisco building on which the tag was painted in 2010. The piece is the subject of the documentary Saving Banksy, which chronicles the endeavor of art collector Brian Grief to preserve a Banksy piece. Photo courtesy of Outer Space Gallery.
The Outer Space Gallery in Winter Haven is getting an original piece by famed anonymous graffiti artist Banksy. "Haight Street Rat" will be on display on the section of a Victorian San Francisco building on which the tag was painted in 2010. The piece is the subject of the documentary Saving Banksy, which chronicles the endeavor of art collector Brian Grief to preserve a Banksy piece. Photo courtesy of Outer Space Gallery.
Published Jan. 19, 2018

Fans of notorious street artist and activist Banksy won't have to travel too far to see one of his original pieces, thanks to an exhibit opening on Jan. 27 at the Outer Space Gallery in Winter Haven.

The "Haight Street Rat" will be on display, on the actual section of the Victorian San Francisco building on which Banksy painted the tag in 2010. The piece is the subject of the documentary Saving Banksy, which chronicles the endeavor of art collector Brian Grief to preserve a tag from the famous — and mysterious — English graffiti artist.

Chris and Amy Sexson, publishers of Polk County-based arts and entertainment magazine, Haven, saw the film last summer and e-mailed Greif, the film's executive producer, about bringing the piece to Winter Haven. Through a partnership with the Arts Ensemble Education Foundation and Outer Space Gallery, they secured the piece last fall.

"Brian was excited to bring the piece to Winter Haven, and we're excited to be able to show it and introduce Banksy to people who weren't aware of him," said Amy Sexson.

Since street art typically never leaves the streets, it's pretty remarkable that Greif was able to attain a piece, especially a Banksy. He was living in San Francisco when Bansky came to town for about 10 days, causing a sensation by leaving his mark on various locations every night. True to the nature of graffiti, many were immediately painted over. The Haight Street Rat was painted high atop a Victorian-style building, making it harder to access. Since rats are one of Banksy's most iconic images, Greif saw historical significance in preserving the piece, and worked with the building's owner to remove it.

Greif's intention was to donate the piece to a museum, but initially there were no takers. Some posited that the nature of street art is impermanence. Others felt funny about showing a piece from Banksy, who fiercely protects his true identity and doesn't sell reproductions of his work or have exhibitions. Greif was also offered $200,000 for the piece, but he wasn't looking to make money from it. Now, he travels the piece around the world for people to view for free.

Along with Banksy's piece, the Outer Space Gallery will exhibit Secret Identities, which features artwork from a number of St. Petersburg artists, including Chad Mize, Palehorse, Calan Ree and Coralette Damme, as well as the gallery's artist-in-residence, Trent Manning. There will be a screening of Saving Banksy on the outside of the gallery, as well as a pop-up market from Lakeland Creative Makers, and food and drinks for purchase.

The event runs from noon to 9 p.m. at 230 Avenue C SW. The exhibit runs through Feb. 12, Saturday is the only open house viewing; otherwise arrangements can be made through the gallery. Find more information at facebook.com/banksyinwinterhaven.

Contact Maggie Duffy at mduffy@tampabay.com.