Banksy’s painting depicting chimpanzees sitting in parliament has sold for more than £9million at auction, breaking the record price for a work of the elusive British artist.
‘Devolved parliament’, in which chimpanzees replace politician in the House of Commons, measures 4 meters long, making it Banksy’s largest known canvas. Despite being painted in 2009, many commentators have drawn comparisons to current-day politics, and the chaos witnessed in the House of Commons over Brexit.
It was first unveiled as part of the Banksy versus Bristol exhibition in 2009, and was lent to the Bristol Museum earlier this year, marking both the exhibition’s 10th anniversary and Britain’s original planned exit from the EU on 29 March. At the time, Banksy wrote ‘I made this 10 years ago. Bristol museum have just put it back on display to mark Brexit day. Laugh now, but one day no one will be in charge.’
‘Devolved Parliament’ surpassed its estimated price tag of £1.5m to £2m, with the auctioneer declaring ‘history is being made’ at one point during the sale that was being streamed live. After bidding that lasted 13 minutes, the2009 artwork from a private collection sold to loud applause for a hammer price of £8.5m, giving a final price of £9,879,500 ($12.2m) with added fees.
‘Record price for a Banksy painting set at auction tonight. Shame I didn’t own it.’ Banksy wrote on his instagram feed. He added a quote by critic Robert Hugues about the value of artworks: ‘ The price of a work of art is now part of its function, its new job is to sit on a wall and get more expensive. Instead of being the common property of humankind the way a book is, art becomes the particular property of someone who can afford it.’
Before Thursday ‘s sale, the auction record for Banksy work was £1.4m for ‘Keep it spotless’ which sold at Sotheby’s in New York in 2008. It also comes a year after another Banksy canvas, ‘Girl with Balloon’, shredded itself in front of shocked onlookers at Sotheby’s auction just as it was sold.
Watch the live stream of the bidding here