Banksy - 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, July 2, 2020 | Phillips

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  • In Short


    “You paint 100 chimpanzees and they still call you a guerrilla artist”
    – Banksy 


    Stenciled in spray paint atop an Old Masters reproduction encased in a gilded frame, Monkey Poison, 2004, exemplifies the satirical overtones of Banksy’s renowned street art transferred to the realm of “high art”. Perched atop a tree branch, Banksy’s monkey intrudes upon a countryside vignette, guzzling gasoline from a carton labeled with a flammable sign. The chimpanzee—a recurring motif for the artist since the early 2000s, which has now become one of his most iconic and extensively reproduced images—overlooks this pastoral scene with eyes wide-open, ostensibly unaware of the poison he consumes.  Perhaps a satirical commentary on the excess of modern-day gasoline consumption, or a pointed critique on animal cruelty, Monkey Poison brims with the sardonic humor and socio-political undercurrents quintessential of the artist’s oeuvre.  

    Though Banksy is renowned for his brash albeit poignant critiques of the art world, the theme of satire is not without great art historical precedence. Drawing from a rich lineage of predecessors, dating from William Hogarth’s 18th century masterpieces that comically exposed the corruption and chaos of the British bourgeoise, to Marcel Duchamp’s early 20th century iconoclasm in the form of Fountain, 1917, and L.H.O.O.Q, 1919, Banksy here utilizes zoological symbolism to ridicule contemporary society through a darkly humorous lens. Bridging the disparate realms of graffiti and high art, Monkey Poison is Banksy’s own tongue-in-cheek response to the corrupt modern-day world that we inhabit, inviting both laughter and contemplation from those who encounter it.


    “As soon as I cut my first stencil I could feel the power there. I also like the political edge. All graffiti is low-level dissent, but stencils have an extra history,” Banksy has remarked. “They’ve been used to start revolutions and to stop wars”
    – Banksy 

  • How Banksy Broke into the Art World

    • Provenance

      Private Collection, United Kingdom
      Private Collection, United States
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Artist Biography


      British • 1975 - N/A

      Anonymous street artist Banksy first turned to graffiti as a miserable fourteen year old disillusioned with school. Inspired by the thriving graffiti community in his home city, Bristol, Banksy's works began appearing on trains and walls in 1993, and by 2001 his blocky, spray-painted works had cropped up all over the United Kingdom. Typically crafting his images with spray paint and cardboard stencils, Banksy is able to achieve a meticulous level of detail. His aesthetic is clean and instantly readable due to his knack for reducing complex political and social statements to simple visual elements.

      His graffiti, paintings and screenprints use whimsy and humour to satirically critique war, capitalism, hypocrisy and greed — with not even the Royal family safe from his anti-establishment wit.

      View More Works


Monkey Poison

stencilled with the artist's name "BANKSY" lower left; further signed and dated "Banksy 2004!" on the stretcher
oil and spray enamel on found canvas, in artist’s frame
image 24 x 36 in. (61 x 91.4 cm)
overall 32 1/2 x 44 1/4 in. (82.6 x 112.4 cm)

Executed in 2004, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Pest Control.

Full Cataloguing

$1,800,000 - 2,500,000 

Sold for $2,000,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 2 July 2020