Laugh Now But One Day We’ll Be In Charge, 2000
Acrylic and stencil spray-paint on canvas
61×61 cm (24×24 inches)
From a series
Stencil-signed “BANKSY”, lower right
Sotheby’s Hong-Kong: 18 June 2021
GBP 1,640,000 / USD 2,280,000
The chimpanzee has appeared as a recurring motif in Banksy’s oeuvre since 2002, when the artist produced a six-meter-long stenciled graffiti work entitled Laugh Now. The work depicts a row of subservient apes wearing aprons, some of which bear the inscription ‘Laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge’. It has since become one of Banksy’s most iconic and widely disseminated images, making headlines in 2008 when the original artwork sold successfully at auction, breaking the record for the artist at the time.
In 2009, Banksy created Devolved Parliament as a homage to the earlier work; and in 2019, upon the exhibition of Devolved Parliament ten years on from its execution, Banksy wryly declared on his Instagram account: “Laugh now, but one day no-one will be in charge”. Striking for its simple and raw immediacy, the power of Banksy’s work lies not only in its easy-accessibility and instant-gettability, but in his incisive wit and reliably anarchic and rebellious spirit. Commenting on the artist’s modus operandi, Patrick Potter has stated, “By laughing at the spectacle we undermine its power and make room for a bit of original thought” (Patrick Potter, Banksy: You are an acceptable level of threat and if you were not you would know about it, Durham 2012, n.p.).
Banksy’s derisive art has provoked divisive opinion, granting him a reputation of infamy as much as world renown; but love him or hate him, it is indisputable that his bold, subversive and pivotal artistic voice has earned him an established place within contemporary art history. Don’t laugh – he’s already in charge.