Monday, October 20, 2008

Recommended: The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill

Posted By on Mon, Oct 20, 2008 at 11:17 AM

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Super secretive British street artist Banksy has opened a new installation-cum-pet store in Greenwich Village, and it's far less heartbreaking than an actual pet store several blocks away where tiny, adorable dogs (not lucky enough to be cast in Beverly Hills Chihuahua) are biting each other in their window boxes. There aren't any real animals in Banksy's Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill, of course.

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.)

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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.

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