Part of Banksy’s famous Placard Rat series, Get Out While You Can was released in 2004 as a limited edition of 75 and 175 unsigned screen prints in red and pink, alongside Welcome to Hell and Because I’m Worthless. It first appeared as a stencil graffiti in London’s Chiswell Street with the words on the placard reading ‘London Doesn’t Work’.
The print features one of Banksy’s most recognisable characters, the rat, which can be seen as a nod to French graffiti artist Blek Le Rat. As with Banksy’s use of animals as symbols in other works, including Laugh Now, the artist also seeks to represent the common people through the motif of animals, especially rodents. Associated with cunning wit, as well as counterculture and a kind of helplessness, Banksy uses the animal to explore themes of exploitation and manipulation by the market and by authorities. The rat in this image is wearing a necklace with a peace sign, holding a placard with the words ‘Get Out While You Can’ executed in bright colours. If we take into account the original location of the graffiti, this statement can be read either as a commentary on how London is becoming gradually taken over by gentrification or as raising awareness to gang culture and violence in urban areas.