Elusive artist Banksy's painting of the parliament chamber occupied by chimpanzee members of the parliament sold for nearly £9.9m. The painting was first displayed in 2009 and bought in 2011. On October 3 this year, the painting was sold for what is the highest amount ever paid for a Banksy piece. There were speculations regarding the amount the painting would fetch due to the changes noticed in the painting before the auction.
In 2009, the piece was exhibited in Bristol Museum. It showed chimpanzees occupying the parliament chamber indicating the house is in session. Banksy often uses animals to enable his political commentary through his art. Originally, the painting was named "Question Time" at the time of the exhibition. However, when the painting was catalogued for sale in 2019, it had been listed as "Devolved Parliament". The painting drew over 300,000 visitors, who waited nearly seven hours to get a glimpse of the work.
Riding the pre-Brexit hype, Sotheby's decided to auction the painting depicting the House of Commons.
When the 13 feet (4m) long painting was put on display, many noticed some alterations. The primary alteration came in the form of the bright chandeliers, which illuminated the painting in 2009. Not only were the two grand chandeliers smaller, they were no longer illuminated. The artist also darkened the painting since the chandeliers were no longer large and bright.
The other two changes were more minute. The second notable change was the banana in the hand of a chimpanzee seated on the left side. In 2009, the banana's stalk faced upward. However, the altered version had the stalk facing downward.
The third change that hawk-eyed viewers noticed, was a carving that seemed to have changed in both shape and size.
Banksy seems to point out that the house has become a darker place by altering the lamps. The banana pointing down could also symbolise the artist's view of the United Kingdom's political nose-dive.
New York Times had reached out to Sotheby's, asking about the changes and why they had not been mentioned in their online catalogue. Sotheby's confirmed that the painting had been altered by the artist since its exhibition in 2009.
Reuters reported that the painting sold in 13 minutes for £8.5m. The fees in addition to the hammer price placed the final amount of the painting at £9,879,500, making it the most expensive Banksy painting ever sold.