Brits are heading to the polls tomorrow in a General Election, or a Brexit referendum, or is it a vote on capitalism vs socialism, or all of them at once? What is clear is that the issues plaguing the island nation won’t be resolved by Friday and likely not soon thereafter. Banksy’s Devolved Parliament, created a decade ago and sold two months ago for a record $12M, couldn’t be more in context, and isn’t such premonition exactly what makes a good artist? 

The “Banksy question” has preoccupied the art market for some two decades now, the last couple of years seeing more and more action for the graffiti artist on the secondary market and his influence spread in all directions. Banksy didn’t invent artistic self-irony but there is no question that his bold attitude towards the market has empowered other artists to publicly question the integrity and sensibility of today’s art arena. After a week of banana-mania it’s a most sought out question.
However, market forces are stronger than one man’s complex, interwoven relationship with it. Evidently, while Banksy tries to simultaneously stay an outlaw artist while pranking, especially collectors, from within, more and more of his art is creeping onto the market. In 2019, more than 700 lots went on auction, six times more than just 5 years ago. Devolved Parliament helped his total sales value skyrocket by almost 80% compared to 2018, the Right Honourable monkeys making up for close to half of that total.
Of course, 2018 saw the shredding stunt of Girl with Balloon, and it seems that the artist thriving on (negative) PR has now moved into a different league; a league in which he will need at least one headline-grabbing provocation a year, or he might get swallowed up by the market and become what he dreads most. The surge of lots appearing at auctions has pressured Banksy’s median price per artwork, which is decreasing in line with the increase of lots (over half selling below $10K), signalling a showdown between the market and the artist. If anything, this paves the ground for increasingly outrageous stunts that will at least keep us entertained.  

All being said, and Banksy being Banksy, his newest work takes us away from abstract thoughts of money and markets, poignantly reminding us of what truly matters as holiday spirits pick up steam. 

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