On Sunday afternoon, the small space was teeming with a drowsy
late-brunch crowd that seemed to perk up as soon as they saw a sign
planted in the middle of the sidewalk that said, “Open for Pet
Supplies/Rare Breeds/Mechanically retrieved meat.” Yum! Outside,
visitors step on a small carpet of hay, and approach the big shop
windows: in one, there is a shy leopard, tail twitching nervously, her
back turned to her audience. In another, an anamatronix rabbit
in pearls deftly files her nails at a vanity table. In the last, two
baby chicks–er, chicken nuggets, that is–engage in a little dance,
dipping themselves in ketchup. They are a delight to watch. Except for
the fact that they made me hungry. For McDonald’s. Which I hate. I
didn’t break, although I wonder how many people did.
Inside, Bansky’s commentary on humans’ relationship with animals and
the ethics and sustainability of factory farming continues. Packed and
condensed in the tiny store is a gumball machine in which tarantula rests,
faux chameleons printed with Louis Vuitton patterns, a molted Tweety Bird, several terrariums of twitchy
pet hot dogs sipping mustard, a fish tank filled with roving fish sticks, and a monkey
watching his contemporaries on the Discovery channel, a big pair of
headphones covering his head. His eyes have the pleased, glassy stare that
usually comes with hours spent taking in a Real World/Road Rules Challenge
marathon. An empty carton of cigarettes sits next to him in his cage.
A friendly woman in overalls is standing behind the country, ready to
answer your questions and tell you that the colorful pork products lining the shelves are,
sadly, not for sale. But you can sign the guest-book! (“I f*cking love you, Bansky!!” read one effusive entry.)
On the other side of the shop windows we learn that the leopard is just an
aesthetically arranged designer fur coat. Watching the people on the outside watching it —
and watching you, a temporary prisoner for them to ogle, the mystery
already solved on your end — Banksy’s pointed wit is obvious. This
doesn’t make it any less effective. Or fun. Absolutely recommended.
The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill, 89 Seventh Avenue South (near Bleeker St), free to enter. Open daily through October 31.