Banksy's Devolved Parliament

Year: 2009
Medium: Oil
Dimensions: 250 x 420cm
Last Hammer: £8,500,00 (Sotheby's London, 2019)
Signed/Unsigned: Signed
Banksy’s Devolved Parliament, 2009. An oil on canvas work with chimpanzees in the House of Commons.Devolved Parliament © Banksy 2009
Joe Syer

Joe Syer, Co-Founder & Specialist[email protected]

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In the striking oil painting Devolved Parliament, Banksy ventures beyond his hallmark spray paint and stencil approach to deliver a potent critique of British politics. This 2009 piece depicts an assembly of chimpanzees occupying the House of Commons, a satirical nod to the tumultuous nature of political discourse. With its significant four-metre span, it is Banksy's most substantial canvas, marrying grotesque imagery with a lifelike portrayal that resonates with viewers. This artwork, notable for both its scale and its piercing commentary, fetched an impressive sum at auction and remains a stark, thought-provoking statement on the state of governance.

Devolved Parliament Meaning & Analysis

Banksy's Devolved Parliament presents a powerful visual metaphor, where the expected human politicos are replaced by a group of animated chimpanzees, casting a critical eye on the British parliamentary proceedings. This work does more than just depict primates in place of politicians; it dives into the heart of political satire, using the chaos and unruliness often associated with these animals to comment on the perceived state of political debate.

At the core of this painting lies the suggestion of regression rather than progress, implied by the term devolved. It's a stark contrast to the evolutionary ascent of humankind, perhaps suggesting that the political system has descended into primal, animalistic behaviour. Banksy's choice of the historically dignified setting of the House of Commons, filled with screeching chimpanzees, serves to amplify the absurdity and dysfunction he perceives in the political arena.

The realism with which Banksy paints this scene is deliberate, grounding the absurdity in a context that is all too familiar. The grand scale of the canvas further adds a sense of gravitas to the scene, commanding the viewer's attention and allowing the satirical elements to unfold with greater impact. This work leverages the visual shock of seeing animals enacting human roles, prompting observers to question the nature of power and the actions of those who wield it.

Devolved Parliament challenges viewers to reflect on the nature of democracy and representation. Banksy's chimpanzees are not just placeholders for humans; they are a mirror, reflecting the primal instincts that can underlie human decision-making processes, particularly in the charged atmosphere of political debate. Through this piece, Banksy suggests that despite centuries of civilization and progress, the foundations of societal governance are not as far removed from our animalistic origins as we might like to think.

“By replacing politicians with primates, Banksy questions the maturity and effectiveness of political debate, while also suggesting a regression to more primal, animalistic behaviours within the political arena.”

Joe Syer
Joe Syer,Co-Founder & Specialist,MYArtbroker

Banksy's Commentary in Devolved Parliament

The contemplation of Banksy's Devolved Parliament evokes a reflection on the state of political affairs and the role of art in social commentary. This painting, with its depiction of chimpanzees in the hallowed halls of the House of Commons, serves as a mirror to the often absurd theatre of politics. It provokes a dialogue on the very nature of democracy and the individuals chosen to uphold its values.

Banksy's art has always been about pushing boundaries and challenging perceptions. In Devolved Parliament, he expands this challenge to the political sphere, questioning the effectiveness and integrity of those at the helm of power. The use of chimpanzees is a masterful stroke of irony; it undermines the seriousness of parliamentary debate and prompts the viewer to consider whether or not the officials are truly representing the people, or are they engaged in a power play as primitive as the social dynamics of common monkeys?

This artwork also prompts us to reflect on the role of the artist in society. Banksy, through his anonymity and provocative works, has become a sort of conscience for the public, daring us to confront uncomfortable truths about our systems and ourselves. The continued interest in and discussion around Devolved Parliament is indicative of the persistent relevance of the questions it raises.

As we gaze upon the loud assembly of primates in a space once reserved for dignified debate, we are compelled to consider the evolutionary path of our own governance. Is this scene a regression to a baser state, or a satirical call to action for a more enlightened and effective political process? The enduring legacy of this piece will be its ability to inspire introspection and, perhaps, a desire for change.

Devolved Parliament Exhibition History

Banksy vs. Bristol Museum, Bristol Museum, Bristol, 2009

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