Laugh Now Banksy
Laugh Now by the notoriously secretive artist and activist Banksy is considered to be from the artist’s early period of work. Instead of appearing in the streets, it was first seen in 2002 as a commissioned work done for Ocean Rooms nightclub in Brighton. The piece was originally a large format, more precisely a six-metre long spray painting repeating ten times the Laugh Now stencil that formed the backdrop for the bar located on Morely Street. In 2008, the Brighton nightclub sold the painting which realised a record auction price at the time.
Laugh Now is a stencilled work in Banksy’s famous black and white signature style. It portrays a depressed looking monkey wearing a sandwich board which reads «Laugh Now, But One Day We’ll Be in Charge ». The monkey’s heavy shoulders and his sunken eyes make him look oppressed and enslaved. One more time, Banksy uses animals to comment upon today’s society. The monkey – one of Banksy’s most iconic figure along with rats – is used to caricature the humans’ way of living and thinking. The sentence on the board appears like a catch phrase among others used by the artist to deliver a message of wisdom. Indeed the work depicts with sarcasm how humans are oppressed by capitalism.
As sandwich board holders are generally from the proletariat, the monkey here is certainly an allegory for the disillusioned working-class. However, like all of Banksy's compositions, more than one interpretation is suggested. This piece is probably also a comment on the way man has treated wild animals and especially his primate cousins by poaching, slaughtering and capturing them and putting them in cages for entertainment reasons. On the other hand, the sentence present on the board suggests the character is preparing for an uprising. Banksy may want to warn us here about a revolution to come.
Since 2002, various versions of this stencilled monochrome monkey appeared, especially on the occasion of the artist's first solo show Existencilism which took place in Los Angeles in 2002, where the monkey displayed other types of aphorisms like « Keep it real » or « Lying to a cop is never wrong ». The original version of the work sold at Bonham’s in 2008 in a milestone auction for Urban Art reaching a price of nearly half a million dollars. More recently, in winter 2017, the artwork was exhibited in Amsterdam, at Moco Museum located in a breathtaking traditional mansion called Villa Alsberg, next to the famous Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum. More than fifty indoor and outdoor works by Banksy were displayed including the iconic Girl With Balloon along with other famous works like Barcode, Pulp Fiction, Kate Moss, Bomb Hugger and many more. Laugh Now was the central piece of the exhibition as it gave its name to the whole show.
In 2003, the piece was reproduced as a limited edition print for sale with 150 Laugh Now signed and 600 unsigned versions.