Is this Tokyo rat by Banksy?

The drawing now stands behind a protective glass cover in a corner of the sprawling Tokyo metropolitan government building.
The drawing now stands behind a protective glass cover in a corner of the sprawling Tokyo metropolitan government building. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TOKYO • Banksy, there is no need to play cat and mouse. Tokyo's mayor has urged the mysterious street artist to get in touch after the city on Thursday displayed a drawing thought to be his work.

Curious Tokyo residents, tourists and art lovers flocked to see the work depicting a rat holding an umbrella, which was spotted on a panel near a monorail station in central Tokyo.

As ever, doubts rage over whether it is a genuine work by the artist.

Mayor Yuriko Koike said: "If there are any problems, I'd very much like Mr Banksy to contact the Tokyo metropolitan government."

It is unclear when the drawing - which Ms Koike described as a "cute rat" - was painted, but the city's public safety bureau has known about the graffiti for a long time, seemingly oblivious to its potential.

A rat holding an umbrella is one of Banksy's most famous artworks and there are photos on social media dating back several years that appear to show the same drawing.

It was only in December that the city government realised it might be a "Banksy", after local residents contacted officials.

The drawing now stands behind a protective glass cover in a corner of the sprawling metropolitan government building.

Viewers have voiced hopes that it is genuine.

Tokyo has been consulting experts, but the work's authenticity has not been confirmed yet.

Banksy, whose identity is known to only a handful of friends, caused a sensation in October when one of his paintings began shredding itself, just after selling for US$1.4 million (S$1.9 million).

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2019, with the headline 'Is this Tokyo rat by Banksy?'. Print Edition | Subscribe