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Lifestyle | 06 Jun 22

West Contemporary: Monkey Queen by Banksy

West Contemporary: Monkey Queen by Banksy

Those of us of a certain age might remember the (now justified fuss) the press made of an unknown but emerging masked artist in the early 2000’s.

Some referred to the street artist as merely a glorified vandal. Others celebrated his potent mix of satire, politics and culture. Half of critics praised his ‘simplified imagery’ while the other half treated it with sceptical contempt. Few predicted successful longevity, and most wrote off the elusive Bristolian as a ‘flash in the pan’, but fast forward two decades, and that same artist enjoys even more column inches and acclaim than in those first formative years in post-Britpop Britain. Appreciated or not, Banksy is certainly impossible to ignore.

Liam West, FRSA, an experienced art consultant and gallerist, recalls that period; ‘Banksy was one of those artists that transcended our own industry and the art world and just blew up everywhere. This was before social media and before buying art became as accessible as it is now – and he was a genuine household name very quickly. People forget just how quickly. And how genre defining, he became. He didn’t just explode onto the scene, in many minds, he created it – at least in the public’s eyes’.

One thing the now world famous street artist understood then, just as much as he does now, is; timing. Be it leaving a creation to be found overnight in a relevant location, making a particularly topical social commentary or providing a lucrative asset to a flailing youth club during a time of financial distress, Banksy has always maximised his impact.

Banksy’s Monkey Queen was originally painted at The Chill Out Zone youth club on Broad Street, Newent, in 2003, not coincidentally around the time of HM The Queen’s Golden Jubilee.

One of his most controversial pieces to date, the anti-establishment motif, gained global news for the artist, with commentators endlessly discussing if the artwork and the artist was disrespectful to the monarchy and national flag. Indeed, the UK Government asked the youth club to cover over the artwork, which in itself then raised emotional, social debates regarding the right to freedom of speech and expression. It would not be inappropriate to assume Banksy himself, clearly, a fan of public discourse would have taken great pride in.

The monkey, one of Banksy’s trademark recurring figures, has been used in two other artworks by the artist. The earlier work ‘Laugh Now’ and also the iconic ‘Devolved Parliament’, which sold at the famous Sotheby’s in London in 2019 for £9.9 million – then the auction record for the artist. This was then eclipsed by the aptly named ‘Game Changer’, a March 2021 sale reaching £16.8million. As if proof of Banksy’s star was needed, this was once again beaten in October of the same year as ‘Love is in the Bin’ totalled £18.5million, vastly over its £4-6million guide price.

Monkey Queen epitomises Banksy’s satirical nature, the primate study clearly suggesting the hair and jewellery of her majesty, with the unmistakeable red, white and blue of the Union flag as the background colours. As a standalone artwork, it is striking, for good or for bad – but as a piece of cultural commentary, it is priceless.  

That appeal and the fact it was produced during Banksy’s own halcyon ascent to the graffiti throne has resulted in Monkey Queen becoming one of the rarest and most collectable Banksy’s to own, a collectible golden ticket for art investors and a life changing resale for early adopters. As we approach another Royal milestone, The Platinum Jubilee, it is unsurprising to see collectors renewed interest in finding the artwork that spawned enough column inches to reach the moon and at the same time generated enough publicity to take the artist himself out into the proverbial artistic stratosphere.

Modern day art collectors and luxury investors should have reason to be positive, too.

2021 saw Banksy’s auction results centre him firmly as one of the world’s top performing artists in the auction rankings, with 1186 artworks generating $206million ( Any suggestions of a post-Covid stagnation for the phenomenon remain weak, as the already stunning 25% year on year increase of the past decade gave way to an average 83% increase in Banksy’s prints and multiples, over three times their most consistent rate.

The biggest fight collectors face right now is finding availability of signed artworks. With authenticated (by Pest Control, Banksy’s authenticators) artworks remaining some of the most desirable in the market, and investors globally all seeking the same perceived tried and tested relative consistency a Banksy investment offers – supply is certainly not meeting demand, as highlighted by Liam West, currently in possession of one Monkey Queen.

‘We have sold works by Banksy for longer than most gallerists in the world (since 2001), and I have only ever seen one other ‘Monkey Queen’ in that time. They are so rare, and to have this one in hand in absolute mint condition and with Pest Control certification, even rarer.’

A signed limited edition of just 150, with full certification and presented in a gold ornate frame, sized at 50x34.5cm, Monkey Queen has a Price On Application that can be obtained by emailing [email protected]

For industry professionals, investment analysts and culture watchers, Banksy has morphed from ‘emerging’ to ‘established’ to ‘unprecedented’ in the space of 20 years. With an enduring intrigue, sales track record to back it and an inimitable ability to reinvent himself without losing touch in what made him the star he is today, it might just be time for sceptics to give the boy from Bristol the respect his career deserves.