Banksy's Devolved Parliament

Banksy’s Devolved Parliament, 2009. An oil on canvas work with chimpanzees in the House of Commons.Devolved Parliament © Banksy 2009
Joe Syer

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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.

Devolved Parliament Value and Auction History

Devolved Parliament is an intriguing piece, both in its artistic merit and the poignant commentary it offers. This oil painting, a departure from Banksy’s typical street art medium, has garnered significant attention not only for its striking visual appeal but also for the depth of its political critique.

The value of this artwork extends beyond the financial, estimated between £16,620,000 and £24,930,000. It lies in its ability to provoke thought and debate about the state of modern governance. The irony of the piece is multifaceted; it reflects the artist’s message that the so-called civilised parliamentary process is as wild and unruly as the behaviour of the chimpanzees depicted. Banksy’s work suggests that the veneer of order and decorum in politics might be thin, with the underlying nature of the debate being primitive and instinct-driven.

The value of Devolved Parliament is further amplified by its scale as the largest known canvas by Banksy. This not only makes a statement of ambition but also serves to engulf the viewer in its narrative. The size of the work commands attention and signifies the weight of the issues being critiqued. It is a bold statement that resonates with viewers, creating an immersive experience that invites them to ponder the state of political affairs.

Banksy’s choice of chimpanzees as subjects is particularly telling, symbolising both innocence and the overlooked. In this painting, the chimpanzees are no longer bystanders or victims; they have taken over the institution, perhaps suggesting that the disenfranchised have seized control, or more ironically, that the current leaders are no more sophisticated than their animal counterparts.

The sale of Devolved Parliament at auction speaks to its impact, offering a staggering average return to the seller and highlighting its desirability in the art market. Yet, despite its commercial success, the piece remains a critique of the very establishment that such a market represents. It is this duality that encapsulates Banksy’s art: a blend of value and critique, wrapped in layers of irony.

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.

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