by George Biggs
Jaws dropped earlier this week when Banksy’s new piece, a large painting depicting The House of Commons occupied by chimpanzees, sold for a ludicrous amount at auction.
Called ‘Devolved Parliament’, the art depicts the primates engaging in politics. Some chimps slouch, others gasp or gesture and some even appear mid-shout. The allegorical nature of the piece is clear, reflecting the apparent chaos, disarray and incompetence that’s currently coursing through parliament.
It sold for £9,879,500 after a 13-minute bidding battle hosted by Sotheby’s. It was expected to sell for around £2,000,000, but it soared passed this estimate to massive applause.
The news of the selling point provoked massive incredulity on social media. Many pointed out it is ludicrous that this work sold for so much, even if Banksy is already a well-established, critically acclaimed artist. The work is hardly the ground-breaking commentary Banksy has sometimes been praised for. Painting animals doing human activities is an artistic trope that’s nearly a classic at this point: one twitter user remarked, “I hope he does dogs playing poker next!!!”
There’s something incredibly ironic about Banksy using base and simple allegories to ‘enlighten’ us about who he implies are base and simple politicians, and how it was simply drank up by mega-rich art collectors. Although Banksy wrote on Instagram that he doesn’t own the painting, it’s provocative and a little depressing that this art’s purpose is now to accumulate wealth on someone’s mansion wall. Considering he started as a graffiti artist, one would expect he’d prefer the art to be in the hands of the people.
The sad fact is that the types of people purchasing this critical art are likely the ones benefiting from the politicians Banksy implies are ‘devolved’.
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