Banksy’s painting Devolved Parliament, originally titled Question Time, presents a tongue-in-cheek take on the UK’s parliament. The 2009 work not only features a literal de-evolved group of Members of Parliament but it also references the kind of representation the UK has delegated to Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The painting is now set to head to auction at the start of October, just before Brexit talks are scheduled to go on at the EU summit.
However, there seem to be more changes to the painting than just its name as some astute Banksy experts and enthusiasts have noticed. Most notable are the chandeliers, or lack thereof, in the painting heading to auction at Sotheby’s London. When the painting first exhibited a decade ago, parliament was lit with two large chandeliers. Now, those chandeliers have shrunk a bit and are no longer illuminated. Other changes are not quite as bold. For example, in the foreground of the left corner of, one of the chimps holds a banana that is curved downward. When the painting exhibited in 2009, that banana was curved upwards. Close by to that chimp, one of the carved wooden decorations has changed shape and size, too. Having a look between images of the two paintings ends up feeling like a massive spot-the-difference game.
Sotheby’s has stated that the painting is in fact the same painting that was exhibited in Bristol in 2009. According to their catalog description, the painting was purchased in 2011 by its current owner from the artist and has since remained in the hands of that buyer. Sotheby’s also has the backing of Pest Control, Banksy’s certifying body, that the painting is authentic. When questioned by The New York Times about the changes, Sotheby’s stated: ‘This work [Devolved Parliament] was first created in 2009. When, that same year, it was first exhibited at the Bristol Museum, it carried the title “Question Time.” Since then, the painting has been reworked by the artist and more recently retitled.’
Some speculate that the changes could deter buyers who worry that the painting isn’t the only version out there. Although, this isn’t the first time Banksy has altered an artwork. Just a year ago, Banksy shocked auction-goers when the artist shredded Girl With Balloon as the gavel fell. The painting, which had just been sold for £1.04 million, was subsequently renamed Love in the Bin and the buyer still went through with the purchase. More recently, Banksy took to Instagram showing the transformation they had in mind for a Dover mural referencing Brexit. The timing of the changes the artist had in mind would have coincided with Brexit, but, unfortunately, the changes to the mural will never come to fruition as the mural was painted over last month by the city.
What all this shows us, though, is that Banksy isn’t afraid to revisit works. Maybe soon, the elusive artist will officially fill us in on the changes made to Devolved Parliament, until then, can you find them all?