There are vast amounts of press stories regarding Banksy’s 2009 painting ‘Devolved Parliament’ at the moment. Why? Well because on 28th September 2019, London’s famous auction house, Sotheby’s will be putting it on display… until, it goes under the hammer on October 3rd, with an expected price tag of around £1.5m.
The question we’re asking is, did he really paint it?
There’s no denying the fact that ‘Devolved Parliament’ is a great piece of work. We love the concept, it’s easy to see the point being made. It fits in perfectly with Banksy’s previous messages of disillusionment and cynicism. But, and in our opinion, it’s a big but… ‘Devolved Parliament’ is so wonderfully painted. The detail, the lighting, the grandness of the piece just doesn’t seem to fit with Banksy’s other works… aside from the message, the painting itself just doesn’t feel like a Banksy.
Looking at previous works by the mysterious stencil artist, and there’s plenty of them. None comes close to the skill shown in this 2009 piece. Yes, he has used chimps before in his work. Most famously his ‘Laugh Now’ stencil featured one holding a banner with the phrase ‘laugh now, but one day we will be in charge’. But this was crude in comparison. In fact, compared to ‘Devolved Parliament’, all his work appears crudely executed. But that’s what we love about Banksy’s art, his simplicity. His ability to strike with a powerful message with his stencils.
Now that’s not to say we don’t like ‘Devolved Parliament’. We absolutely love it. We wish we’d thought of it… and to be honest we don’t deny that, based on Banksy’s portfolio, this is certainly a strong Banksy-esque concept. We’re just not convinced he/she/they painted it.
One could argue that obviously Banksy wouldn’t have the time to paint something like this on the streets. We, of course, agree, but this painting was produced 10 years ago and in that time nothing else with a Banksy name attached (even non-street, gallery pieces) has come close to the skill shown in this one.
So ‘if’ Banksy didn’t paint ‘Devolved Parliament’, who did? And, does this actually matter?
If, in fact, it turns out Banksy didn’t paint this masterpiece (which we’re convinced he didn’t) who did? As we said at the start, the endless articles online seem to simply accept Banksy did. No one seems to be raising the question at all. Maybe people don’t care? As long as Banksy has put their name to it then a hefty price tag is ensured.
In fact, the only place this question has been raised, apart from here, is on Facebook via an interesting, mysterious and very talented painter Mason Storm. The always balaclava clad artist, in a recent post, eluded to the fact this wasn’t painted by Banksy and even hinted to the idea that it was painted by himself. Whether this is true or not is up for debate. When looking at Mason’s own paintings you can certainly conclude he most definitely has the skill set to produce this piece on Banksy’s behalf.
Mason Storm loves to shroud himself in mystery and seems to thoroughly enjoy dropping clues of his background, his circle of contacts etc so it wouldn’t be implausible for this to be true.
Mr Storm isn’t the only one who has been targeted as the talent behind the painting others include an ‘at the time’ recent art graduate and a high-end commercial studio.
It wouldn’t be the first time and it won’t be the last.
If it is true it wouldn’t be the first time a famous artist has used someone else to create their pieces. Both Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol have openly admitted to using assistants to create work for them. This has caused great debates within the art world, raising the question of authenticity, authorship and the true value of the work.
As Mason Storm points out, “It’s a thorny question authorship, Hirst, Emin, Koons et al all have people to realise their concepts, why not Banksy? The thing is, actually creating something physically means a totally different thing to being the creator. Sir Christopher Wren never laid a brick but St. Paul’s is always referred to as his greatest building”.
Here at CreativeFolk, we agree, we believe it really shouldn’t matter who produced the piece. If we had an idea for an artwork and then asked someone to produce it for us, does that make it less our idea or our artwork? For us, the idea or concept is what makes a great artist. Yes, the execution of that idea is important and like Banksy, if we have the funds, contacts etc to have someone execute that idea for us then why not? Based on all the other ‘authentic’ Banksy art out there it seems unlikely that this was indeed painted by the famous street artist.
But we guess the truth will never come out.
In the end ‘Devolved Parliament’ is a wonderfully powerful painting, and with the never-ending Brexit debacle is more apt than ever. Now we’ll wait and see just how much someone is willing to pay for a non-Banksy Banksy painting.
UPDATE: Since this article was published, Banksy’s ‘Devolved Parliament’ went under the hammer and sold for a whopping £9,879,500. This record breaking figure is over 6 times the estimate of £1,500,000!!!
For more information on Banksy etc here’s some links to keep you going:
CreativeFolk article on Banksy’s new Gross Domestic Product Shop
A look at social commentary art
Evening Standard article on Devolved Parliament