Banksy’s ‘Devolved Parliament’ Sells For Record-Making Millions At Auction

Banksy's Devolved Parliament (est. GBP1.5-2m) is displayed to the press during the preview for Sotheby’s Frieze Week Contemporary Art Auctions at Sotheby's on September 27, 2019 in London, England.
Tristan Fewings/Stringer / Getty Images

Banksy’s art is making headlines again. The artist’s most recent painting to go to auction, “Devolved Parliament,” sold on Thursday night for a price that seemed to shock onlookers.

The painting, which was created in 2009, sold for $12.1 million at Sotheby’s London, setting a new auction high for the artist as he previously held an auction record of $1.87 million for “Keep It Spotless,” which sold in 2008 at Sotheby’s New York. While “Devolved Parliament” is Banksy’s largest known canvas, measuring at 13 feet long, the creation was not expected to command such a price. The auction house valued the painting at between $1.8 and $2.5 million.

That number quickly passed expectations as onlookers watched the bidding continually rise, eventually settling on a price ten times what had been estimated and after just 13 minutes of the auction’s start, as reported by Reuters. The ultimate price paid now places Banksy among some of history’s highest-paid living artists.

Banksy took to Instagram to briefly discuss the painting’s success. He shared a quote by famed art critic Robert Hughes that discussed the value and purpose of art, stating that it was art’s job to command a price in today’s society. However, he said that the idea would have a “catastrophic effect on culture.”

While Banksy captioned the upload with the fact that his painting sold for a record price, he also added a little snark.

“Shame I still didn’t own it,” he wrote.

Although painted in 2009, people commented on how “Devolved Parliament” is still relevant today. The painting depicts the British House of Commons. However, instead of showing Members of Parliament sitting in the chamber, the painting substitutes chimpanzees acting as MPs.

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Art enthusiasts have been quick to compare Banksy’s view of the House of Commons with the current Brexit situation. The October 31 deadline is quickly approaching and no exit plan has been agreed upon. The current debates and headaches regarding Brexit have influenced viewers who have remarked that depicting MPs as chimps is more accurate now than ever.

Even though Banksy is now one of the world’s highest-paid painters, he still maintains his anonymity. Little is known about the Bristol-born painter, only that he has a tendency to pop up in cities around the world, painting graffiti and other art focused on political and social commentary.

What makes him so unique, however, is his versatility. “Devolved Parliament” was painted in an old Victorian-era style of oil on canvas, a far cry from his street art, as explained by The New York Times. This ability to create art in many different styles has made Banksy wildly popular outside traditional art circles.

This isn’t the first time a Bansky piece has shocked auction-goers. The sale of “Devolved Parliament” happened just one year after his piece, “Girl with a Balloon,” made headlines when the artwork began to shred itself immediately after having been sold at auction for $1.2 million.