Sale of Banksy’s ‘chimp’ painting for $12.1m catapults him into big league
London: This time it was the bidding that made people gasp. Banksy, the world’s most famous street artist, joined the ranks of the world’s most expensive artists on Thursday night when his 2009 satirical painting, “Devolved Parliament,” sold for about $12.1 million at Sotheby’s, setting an auction high for his work.
“This is like the moment Basquiat made it into the Soho galleries in the 1980s,” said Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s head of contemporary art in Europe. “I’ve realised he’s a serious artist, but he has such a broad popular base,” he added.
“Devolved Parliament,” showing the debating chamber of Britain’s House of Commons packed with earnest-looking chimps, was being auctioned just four weeks before a Brexit-traumatised Britain is due to leave the European Union. Signed and dated 2009, the painting had been estimated to sell for between $1.9 million to $2.5 million.
Acoris Andipa, a dealer who specialises in Banksy, called the painting “an important piece”, saying it was the most valuable work executed solely by Banksy to have so far appeared at auction. “It’s just so topical,” Andipa added.
“The price was final recognition of how important an artist he is,” said Mike Snelle of artist duo the Connor Brothers. Sharp-eyed Banksy enthusiasts noticed the significant differences between the image seen in 2009 and that exhibited in 2019. The overhead lamps in the House had been turned off in the later version, and a banana held by a chimp in the foreground was turned downward, rather than up.
But for some in Sotheby’s packed salesroom, the result was an anticlimax. They had been hoping to witness a stunt as spectacular as the Banksy “shredding incident” last October. On this occasion, Banksy had already done his monkey business.
Famous street artist Banksy’s satirical painting ‘Devolved Parliament’