Monkey business? Banksy's primates in parliament up for auction

Sotheby's believes the current furor surrounding Brexit makes the piece - painted 10 years ago - more topical than ever.

    Monkey business? Banksy's primates in parliament up for auction
    The artwork will be on display at Sotheby's London until it goes under the hammer on October 3 [Simon Dawson/Reuters]

    Banksy painting of primates sitting in the United Kingdom's parliament will go under the hammer next week and is expected to fetch up to $2.5m.

    The painting Devolved Parliament, in which chimpanzees replace politicians, measures 13 feet (4 metres) long, according to Sotheby's Auction House. This makes it the largest-known canvas by the secretive British street artist, who works in anonymity and does not reveal his true name.

    With an eye on the 2009 work's extreme topicality - the House of Commons is witnessing increasingly brutish exchanges over the UK's planned departure from the European Union - the auction house has set its estimated price tag at 1.5-2 million pounds ($1.84m-$2.46m).

    "There's no doubt that today this image has incredible currency, not just here in the UK, but across Europe and beyond," Alex Branczik, Sotheby's head of contemporary art, Europe, said.

    "Here we see this, one of our oldest democracies and within it we see the regression towards tribal, animalistic behaviour."

    Parliament has been at the boiling point since it reconvened on Wednesday, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his opponents clashing in hours of furious argument over Brexit

    The artwork will be on display at Sotheby's London until it goes under the hammer on October 3, a year after another Banksy canvas, Girl with Balloon, shredded itself in front of shocked onlookers at a Sotheby's auction just as it was sold.

    "There's been a lot of comment, inevitably," Branczik said "... I can say categorically there is no shredder in this frame. It would have to be an incredibly large one and I can say with confidence that that is not the case."

    The elusive British artist has not commented on the upcoming sale, but mentioned the painting in a March 28 post on Instagram. 

    "I made this ten years ago. Bristol museum have just put it back on display to mark Brexit day," he wrote, referring to March 29, the original deadline for the UK to leave the EU.

    Banksy began his career spray painting buildings in Bristol, England. His work has gone on to become among the most well-recognised in contemporary art.

    The artist, whose real identity is closely guarded, is known for sharply ironic outdoor graffiti with political themes, sometimes done in high-profile locations, such as the West Bank separation barrier and Disneyland, California, where he placed a life-sized figure of a Guantanamo Bay detainee. 

    Banksy's mischievous and often satirical images also include two male policemen kissing, armed riot police with yellow smiley faces, and a chimpanzee with a sign bearing the words: "Laugh now, but one day we'll be in charge."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies