Pandemonium erupted at Sotheby’s in London on Thursday evening when at least ten eager collectors vied for Banksy’s 2009 painting, Devolved Parliament, showing a Commons chamber packed with chimpanzees, which rocketed to £8.5m (£9.9m with fees), smashing the artist’s previous record of £1.5m. The work was estimated at £1.5m-£2m.
The largest known Banksy painting depicting the British Commons fully occupied with chimpanzees has been sold for more than eleven million euros. London-based auction house Sotheby’s quoted the sale price for the work entitled “Devolved Parliament” on its website on Thursday at £9.88 million (€11.06 million). There was no information about the buyer.
“Regardless of which side you stand in the Brexit debate, there is no doubt that this work is more relevant today than ever before,” Sotheby’s had said before the auction. Banksy distilled the “most complex political situations in society” into a single image, enthused Alex Branczik, who is responsible for contemporary European art at Sotheby’s.
The massive painting by the preeminent trickster Banksy, which is more than four meters long and two and a half meters high and features some 100 chimpanzees resembling politicians in the House of Commons. Made in the style of a rather stuffy, 19th-century history painting, it perfectly echoes or critiques the current state of political affairs in Britain as the nation stumbles along into the unknown territory of a no-deal Brexit on October 31.
Sotheby’s went to extraordinary lengths marketing the picture, installing it in a separate room for the preview, complete with a metal detector entryway, security guards, and a pair of long benches fabricated to resemble those in the House of Commons.
Bearing a Pest Control certificate of authenticity (the official Banksy registry), the painting sparked riotous waves of bidding both in the salesroom and on the banks of telephones during a 13-minute battle, escalating the final price to a jaw-dropping and record-breaking £9.88 million, on an estimate of £1.5 million to £2 million.
Banksy himself announced after the record price for the picture on Instagram was announced: “Shame I didn’t still own it,” he wrote. He added a quote from art critic Robert Hughes: “Art should make us feel more clearly and more intelligently . . . But the price of a work of art is now part of its function. Its new job is to sit on the wall and get more expensive. Instead of being the common property of humankind the way a book is, art becomes the particular property of somebody who can afford it.”