It was sold in October 2019 for about £10 million, after 13 minutes of bidding at Sotheby’s, in London, from 10 determined art enthusiasts. It’s Banksy’s Devolved Parliament, a painting portraying Parliament overrun by chimpanzees which dates back to 2009 — it was first unveiled as part of the Bristol artist’s exhibition called Banksy versus Bristol Museum, in the summer of that year.
This isn’t the first painting of Banksy’s to have caused a stir at auction as, in October 2018, his £1m Girl with Balloon painting shredded itself moments after it was sold at London’s Sotheby’s, becoming Love is in the Bin.
Anyway, despite the artist said his Parliament reveal had been timed with what was supposed to be the day the UK left the European Union, its message seems to be substantially broader. Its universal modernity is rampant.
According to many historians, the oldest parliament in the world was founded by the Viking tribes in 930 in Þingvellir — “plain of the assembly” — about 45 km from Reykjavík, Iceland. Since then, however, looking at the Banksy’s work, instead of reaching a sublime evolution, given the role played, it would have chosen the reverse path: a sort of dawn of man, as that described by Stanley Kubrick in his 2001: A Space Odyssey, but this time without any monolith around — symbol of progress and evolution.
The reality of this worrying devolution is now under everyone’s eyes. So, what better animal to portray it? After all, it’s but the devolution of all humanity and its representing politics — “activities aimed at improving someone’s status or increasing power within an organization”. A society still characterized by primitive distrust and fears, by an earthly odyssey marked by the lack of enthusiasm and wonder towards the space prodigies, as well as the prodigies concerning its species and all that surrounds it — or maybe those it was able to create by itself. The lack of an ultra-media awareness that would perhaps allow these new chimpanzees to break in a single moment all the chains with which they have girded themselves in all these centuries.