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Monkey Detonator (Diptych), 2002

Monkey Detonator (Diptych), 2002
Stencil spray-paint and emulsion on canvas
Each 76x76 cm (30×30 inches)
Stenciled signed “BANKSY” on the overlap
Bonhams London: 17 April 2013
GBP 139,250 / USD 190,618
Monkey Detonator, one of Banksy’s most famed and coveted images, perfectly exemplifies the Bristol-born artist’s irreverent wit in its portrayal of a cheerful monkey jumping directly onto a detonator to ignite an explosion. Caught mid-leap with hands already grasped around the plunger, ready to push down, a curious juxtaposition is presented between the dangerousness of the device and the chimp’s determination, despite the obvious risk of being fatally harmed himself. As a captivating example from Banksy’s visually striking oeuvre, Monkey Detonator invites viewers to both laugh at the absurdity of the composition whilst also reflect on the distinct socio-political undercurrents quintessential of the artist’s oeuvre.


In the case of Monkey Detonator, the mischievous protagonist appears mere seconds away from causing a violent explosion, bringing to mind the idea of reckless action leading to disaster. Though one may argue that the wild primate is blissfully unaware of the impending consequences of his actions, the radio on his ear reveals otherwise. Used in warfare to trigger a wireless detonation from a distance away, Banksy’s inclusion of this detail confronts viewers with the subject’s alarmingly strong sense of determination that drives this perilous course of action.


Banksy, Banging Your Head Against A Brick Wall, November 2001


“You paint 100 chimpanzees, and they still call you a guerrilla artist.”

The monkey is a recurring motif in Banksy’s oeuvre, used by the artist as a deliberately provocative character since the early 2000s. In a contemporary take on “Singerie”, a visual arts genre popular among French artists in the early 18th century which depicted comical scenes of monkeys aping human behavior, Banksy’s chimps too, are often presented in ironic juxtapositions that provide a tongue-in-cheek satirizing of society which so often thinks of itself as ‘above’ the animal kingdom.
Source: Phillips
Monkey Detonator, Waterloo, London, 2006
Courtesy Pest Control Office