When his documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop premiered as part of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, stealth graffiti artist Banksy left his mark on several buildings around Park City, including the Egyptian Theatre. A unique version of the famous Banksy rodent, Dirty Rat, greeted employees when they arrived to work at the venerable Main Street theater on the morning of Exit’s world-debut screening there. Realizing the value of an original Dirty Rat—purported to be in the range of $300,000 to $1 million—Randy Barton, Egyptian Theatre Company theater director, immediately removed the entire door and stored it for posterity.
Well, posterity has arrived. In 2014 the Egyptian’s YouTheatre program lost its rented rehearsal space in the Main Street Mall. Homelessness is a problem for anybody and particularly difficult for a drama program that teaches acting skills to thousands of children and teens every year. Egyptian Theatre board members considered the windfall Dirty Rat would generate if sold to a wealthy collector. But the idea to sell the rare piece was—in honoring the artist—ultimately rejected. “We realized Banksy greatly dislikes his street pieces being turned into private commercial works of art,” Barton says. “So instead we came up with the Save Our Banksy (SOB) campaign.”
SOB, designed to preserve both the Egyptian’s Dirty Rat and YouTheatre in perpetuity, aligns much more closely with Banksy’s intent for his public art, as evidenced by this quote from Smithsonian magazine’s February 2013 piece, “The Story Behind Banksy”:
“There’s a whole new audience out there, and it’s never been easier to sell [one’s art],” Banksy has maintained. “You don’t have to go to college, drag ’round a portfolio, mail off transparencies to snooty galleries or sleep with someone powerful, all you need now is a few ideas and a broadband connection. This is the first time the essentially bourgeois world of art has belonged to the people. We need to make it count.”
For only $10, people from all over the world can make their contribution count by helping put the Egyptian’s Banksy on public display, while at the same time providing a permanent venue for young Park City thespians.
Once the $3 million fundraising goal is met—hopefully sometime later this winter—the Egyptian’s Dirty Rat will be put on permanent showcase in the covered walkway leading to the theater, a home befitting a piece by an artist who lives the philosophy that art should never be out of reach.
The Egyptian’s Dirty Rat is the only Park City Banksy piece not destroyed, removed, or touched up since it was painted in 2010. The city’s two other publicly displayed Banksy pieces—one on the wall of the Cunningham Building garage (537 Main St) and the other on the Java Cow building (402 Main St)—were vandalized on January 1, 2013. Both were restored and remain on display under bulletproof glass. For more information and to contribute to the Egyptian’s Theatre Company’s Save Our Banksy campaign, visit parkcityshows.com.