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Laugh Now But One Day We’ll Be In Charge, 2000


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

Prior Auction Results
Bonhams London: 29 June 2017
GBP 293,000 / USD 384,192
Sotheby’s London: 15 October 2007
GBP 168,500
Born and bred in Bristol, Banksy has achieved a now legendary status that teeters between acclaim and notoriety for his distinctive style of satirical street art and graffiti. His work is rich in dark humor and frequently captioned with subversive epigrams that provide pejorative commentaries on socio-political aspects of contemporary life.
Seeking to disturb and disrupt the status-quo through his interrogative and anti-establishmentarian practice, Banksy has epitomized his own mission with the adage: ‘Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable’ – a modern day take on the turn-of-the-century American satirist Finley Peter Dunne’s declaration that the duty of a newspaper is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” (Finley Peter Dunne cited in Dean P. Turnbloom, Ed., Prizewinning Political Cartoons: 2010 Edition, Gretna 2010, p. 146).
Throughout his career Banksy’s art has been frequently dismissed as crass or glib; yet in spite of this, his work can be seen to fit into a rich and venerable history of political parody. From the British pictorial satirists of the Eighteenth Century, including Thomas Rowlandson, James Gillray and, of course, the great William Hogarth, through to the allegorical writings of George Orwell whose revolutionary novel Animal Farm similarly utilized zoological symbolism to critique modern society, and on to the political cartoonists of the present day, Banksy’s finest work is situated within an esteemed tradition of raising an unforgiving and illuminating mirror up to the world.


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.


Photo credit: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images


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.

Source: Sotheby’s