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Simple Intelligence Testing, 2000


Simple Intelligence Testing

Year: 2000
Medium: Oil on canvas laid onto board, in 5 parts
Dimensions: Each 91.5×91.5 cm (36×36 inches)
Edition: Unique
Stencil-signed “BANKSY”, lower right, fifth canvas

Exhibition History

Severnshed, Bristol, 2000

Auction History

Auction House: Sotheby’s London
Date: 28 February 2008
Price realized: GBP 635,500 / USD 1,262,145
Simple Intelligence Testing, made of 5 parts painted on canvases, tells the story of a chimpanzee undergoing an intelligence testing and opening safes in order to find its bananas.
The story ends by this especially clever chimpanzee stacking all the safes on top of each other and escaping the laboratory through the ventilation opening on the ceiling. The 91.5 cm × 91.5 cm paintings, painted in oil on canvas, date from the year 2000 and are reminiscent of a comic strip.
The first three pictures show that the monkey opens the three safes at will without assigning any meaning to the three symbols on the safes. The instinct-driven animal is unable to recognize that the bananas are in the right vault with the pyramid. The monkey has to open all the cupboards to find the bananas. In the fourth picture we see the monkey holding two bananas in his hands. He has achieved his goal and found the bananas. After the fourth picture, the animal experiment would be over. During Banksy’s series of experiments, however, the chimpanzee becomes aware that it is trapped in a laboratory. He finally breaks with his behavior and goes through a development.

While the monkey in the first pictures is primarily a symbol for the primitive in general, in the fifth picture, paradoxically, the positive connotations appear cunning and cheeky. Here the monkey manages to break out of its prison by stacking the safes on top of each other and slipping through the ceiling. The fifth picture serves as an alternative end to the test series. Unlike conventional animal experiments, Banksy gives the monkey the chance to escape the laboratory by using intelligence and available resources.

At Banksy, the monkey functions as a symbol for humans. He criticizes the kind of person who acts according to norms and rules without evaluating them and making their own decisions. Individual behaviors are subjected to social and political constraints. The series of images Simple Intelligence Testing in Dumb Animals is therefore to be understood as a system criticism. Banksy gives the solution in the last picture – this can be undermined by intelligent use of the tools provided by the system. Banksy’s books “ Banging your head against a brick wall ” and “ Wall and Peace ” with the quote next to the series of images “A lot of people never use their initiative because no-one told them to” consolidate this interpretation.