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Banksy’s rat stencil at 14th Street and Sixth Avenue before it was removed (photo by Luna Park, and used with permission)

Yesterday, just hours after workers removed a large clock face featuring Banksy’s stencil of a rat from a building at Fifth Avenue and 14th Street in Manhattan, the State Senator for that area began petitioning the building’s owner to put it back on view.

“Instead of selling the Banksy on the open market, I would urge you to celebrate your good fortune by finding a suitable location for the Banksy to be permanently displayed to the public,” New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, whose 27th district includes the building in question, wrote in a letter (included in full below) addressed to its owner, Gemini Rosemont Realty. “You might consider incorporating it into the façade of the new building or lending it to a local gallery or institution, for example.”

Hyperallergic has reached out to Gemini Rosemont but received no reply.

“Developers like Gemini Rosemont have a responsibility to keep New York special,” Senator Hoylman, reached by phone in Albany, told Hyperallergic. “I think street art is part of that uniqueness in the city, which is part of why I think Banksy is here in the first place.”

Workers taking down the Banksy at 14th Street and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan (photo by Melissa Stern for Hyperallergic)

A worker at the site yesterday suggested that the clock was being removed so that it could be sent to auction. The building itself is slated to be demolished to make way for a 13-story condo. However, as Senator Hoylman points out in his letter, Gemini Rosemont has already taken steps to preserve a large 1954 mural by Julien Binford that adorns the interior of the building — a former bank — so doing the same for a work on its exterior would follow in the same spirit of preserving public art.

Workers taking down the Banksy at 14th Street and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan (photo by Melissa Stern for Hyperallergic)

“They have actually already done a good deed by preserving the mural, so clearly they have good intentions when it comes to art and once again they find themselves with a very collectible piece on their hands,” Senator Hoylman said. “The Whitney Museum is just down the street, as are other great institutions like the New School, NYU, FIT — there are a lot of potential locations where this art could be displayed, not to mention the new building.”

Banksy has been known to criticize auctions and commercial exhibitions of works he’s created in public spaces that were then removed. Nevertheless, some have found buyers despite the artists’ objections.

“I’m a Banksy fan, personally, and have been for some time and I’m thrilled that he’s returned to New York for another residency, as he calls it,” Senator Hoylman added. “The artwork represents a windfall to the property owner, and they should celebrate their good fortune by continuing to share it with the public rather than putting it on the chopping block in some auction house and ending up in a board room or someone’s private collection.”

State Senator Brad Hoylman’s letter to Gemini Rosemont calling for the public display of the Banksy rat. (courtesy the office of New York State Senator Brad Hoylman) (click to enlarge)

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Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...