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Banksy's chimp-depicting Devolved Parliament sells for more than $16M

A large Banksy painting depicting primates sitting in the U.K. Parliament sold for more than $16 million Cdn on Thursday — a record price at auction for a work by the secretive British street artist, according to Sotheby's.

Auction house Sotheby's had an estimated price tag of up to $3.3M Cdn

Employees hold a painting by anonymous street artist Banksy, on display at Sotheby's auction rooms in London on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/The Associated Press)

A large Banksy painting depicting primates sitting in the U.K. Parliament sold for more than $16 million Cdn on Thursday — a record price at auction for a work by the secretive British street artist, according to Sotheby's.

Devolved Parliament, in which chimpanzees replace politicians in the British House of Commons, more than comfortably surpassed its estimated price tag of 1.5 million to 2 million pounds ($2.4 to 3.3 million), with the auctioneer declaring "history being made" at one point during the sale which was streamed live.

After bidding that lasted some 13 minutes, the 2009 artwork from a private collection sold to loud applause for a hammer price of 8.5 million pounds, to which fees are added giving a final price of 9,879,500 pounds ($16.2 million).

"Record price for a Banksy painting set at auction tonight. Shame I didn't still own it," Banksy wrote on his Instagram feed beside a post quoting art critic Robert Hughes about the value of artwork.

"… The price of a work of art is now part of its function, its new job is to sit on the wall and get more expensive. Instead of being the common property of humankind the way a book is, art becomes the particular property of someone who can afford it," the Instagram post quoted Hughes as saying.

Before Thursday's sale, the auction record for a Banksy work was $2,494,000 for Keep it Spotless which sold at Sotheby's in New York in 2008, according to the auction house.

Devolved Parliament measures four metres long, making it Banksy's largest known canvas, according to Sotheby's.

Despite being painted in 2009, many commentators had drawn comparisons to current-day politics, namely the increasingly brutish exchanges in the House of Commons over Britain's pending departure from the European Union.

Watch Sotheby's Emma Baker explain the fortuitous timing of the Banksy auction:

The upcoming auction of a massive Banksy canvas depicting chimpanzees in the U.K. Parliament coincides perfectly with the country's political turmoil, a Sotheby's representative says. 0:55

The Bristol-born artist, who keeps his identity a secret, is known for his political or social-commentary graffiti work that has popped up in cities around the world.

Thursday's sale came a year after another Banksy canvas, Girl with Balloonshredded itself in front of shocked onlookers at a Sotheby's auction just as it was sold.

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