Monkey Queen Banksy
Monkey Queen is a provocative screen print that was created in 2003 as part of an edition of 600 unsigned prints and only 150 signed prints. However, it was first publicly displayed as a wall painting at a youth club called The Chill Out Zone on Broad Street in Newent, where it remained on the wall of the club for several months before being moved to the front window. This made headlines, referred to in the news as “Banksygate”, following complaints that the painting was disrespectful to the monarchy and to the national flag. The youth club was asked by the government not to display this image during the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and its funding was cut. This raised issues regarding the right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression. With an inherently Bristish sense of humour, the youth leaders at The Chill Out Zone eventually replaced the painting with a more mainstream poster of the Union Flag.
Monkey Queen superimposes the black and white stencilled face of a monkey onto Queen Elizabeth II’s iconic bust image. Only the Queen’s hair, crown and jewellery are identifiable. The monochrome visage appears on a target background composed of red, white and blue, immediately evocative of the Union Flag.
Monkey Queen epitomises Banksy’s artistic identity. The satirical image overtly criticises the British leaders. Aligning the Queen with a primitive animal, the artist evidently suggests that he believes the country is being run by apes. The monkey, one of Banksy’s trademark figures, is reminiscent of his earlier work Laugh Now, depicting a monkey wearing a sandwich board that predicts a society run by primates.
In 2012, Banksy also painted a far less controversial portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, appearing in all of her royal finery but also sporting Ziggy Stardust’s iconic lighting bolt makeup on the streets of Bristol, the artist’s home city. It was painted on the occasion of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee to honour her 60 years on the throne.