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Monkey Poison, 2004


Monkey Poison, 2004
Oil and spray enamel on found canvas in artist’s frame
61x91cm (24 x 35 5/8 inches)
Stenciled-signed “BANKSY”, lower left
Further signed and dated “Banksy 2004” on the stretcher
Phillips New-York: 2 July 2020
USD 2,000,000

Stenciled in spray paint atop an Old Masters reproduction encased in a gilded frame, Monkey Poison, 2004, exemplifies the satirical overtones of Banksy’s renowned street art transferred to the realm of “high art”. Perched atop a tree branch, Banksy’s monkey intrudes upon a countryside vignette, guzzling gasoline from a carton labeled with a flammable sign. The chimpanzee—a recurring motif for the artist since the early 2000s, which has now become one of his most iconic and extensively reproduced images—overlooks this pastoral scene with eyes wide-open, ostensibly unaware of the poison he consumes. Perhaps a satirical commentary on the excess of modern-day gasoline consumption, or a pointed critique on animal cruelty, Monkey Poison brims with the sardonic humor and socio-political undercurrents quintessential of the artist’s oeuvre.
Banksy here utilizes zoological symbolism to ridicule contemporary society through a darkly humorous lens. Bridging the disparate realms of graffiti and high art, Monkey Poison is Banksy’s own tongue-in-cheek response to the corrupt modern-day world that we inhabit, inviting both laughter and contemplation from those who encounter it.