Banksy Is Giving His Painting of Chimpanzees Overrunning Parliament a Special Appearance to Mark ‘Brexit Day’

The 13-foot-long painting reemerges just in time to skewer British MPs over their repeatedly failed Brexit negotiations.

Banksy, Devolved Parliament (2009). Courtesy of the artist.
Banksy, Devolved Parliament (2009). Courtesy of the artist.

Just in time to mark the original “Brexit Day”—the deadline for Britain to leave the European Union—on March 29, the artist-provocateur Banksy reinstalled a painting at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. The painting, a 13-foot-long canvas titled Devolved Parliament, depicts the interior of the House of Commons overrun with chimpanzees in place of the MPs.

It was originally displayed as part of the 2009 exhibition “Banksy vs. Bristol Museum” and was later purchased by a private collector who has since loaned it to the museum to mark a decade since the show’s opening. The timing of its reappearance also makes a not-so-subtle allusion to the current zoological state of the Brexit negotiations. In a statement, museum curator Philip Walker said that the work “caused a real stir” when it was first shown in 2009, and that its display now “feels like a timely chance to revisit the work, and a great opportunity to share Banksy’s largest known work on canvas with the public again.”

Back in 2009, Banksy said of the work, “You paint 100 chimpanzees and they still call you a guerrilla artist.” On Thursday, he posted the work on his Instagram feed with this caption:

 I made this ten years ago. Bristol museum have just put it back on display to mark Brexit day.

Laugh now, but one day no-one will be in charge.

(The second part of the caption may be a reference to his 2002 work Laugh Now, which showed a knuckle-dragging chimp wearing a sandwich board sign that said: “laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge.”)

Banksy, Laugh Now (2002). Courtesy of Phillips.

The comments section of Banksy’s Instagram feed points toward a sympathetic audience. One comment that garnered more than 2,000 likes read, “this dude is probably some time traveler trying to tell us about the future through his art.” Another viral comment read, “Honestly these guys look more in control than our government is.”

This isn’t the first time Banksy has vilified Brexiteers in his work. In 2017, a mural cropped up in Dover showing an overall-clad workman chiseling away at one of the golden stars adorning the blue EU flag. Up close, fissures covered the rest of the flag, presumably an allusion to the crumbling edifice of the once-powerful union.

Britain’s departure from the European Union has been put off repeatedly, with Theresa May’s most recent proposal failing in the House of Commons yet again today. As of now the updated Brexit date is May 22.

Visitors to the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery will be able to see Devolved Parliament free of charge for the next five months.


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