Banksy’s Provocative (Of Course) ‘Show Me The Monet’ is Going on Sale at Sotheby’s

Banksy’s Show Me The Monet (2005), Photo by Michael Bowles/Getty Images for Sotheby’s.

 

(10/22 update to this story: Banksy’s ‘Show Me The Monet’ just sold for £7.6 million at Sotheby’s London, the equivalent of approximately $9.8 million.)

 

The thing about Banksy subverting Monet’s very famous Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lillies, is that it’s a good reminder that the most exalted Impressionist painter was once himself making work that was an “affront” to the established art order. Indeed, proto-Impressionists Cézanne, Pissarro and Edouard Manet were literally banned from the Salon de Paris in 1863.

So one might find intriguing artistic subtext in a politically charged “street” artist whose work has become coveted by major collectors “desecrating” a historic painting that today represents the ultimate mainstreaming of a once radical art movement. The cheekily titled Show Me The Monet actually debuted fifteen years ago, as part of Banksy’s only second public show, titled Crude Oils: A Gallery of Re-mixed Masterpieces, Vandalism and Vermin. As to the latter, visitors to the Notting Hill gallery had to share the space with 164 live rats.

The work has just been put on view at Sotheby’s’ London gallery, and they’re quick to point out that no rodents will accompany the display. Still and all, Show Me The Monet seems remarkably prescient now, as the intervening decade-and-a-half has seen a staggering rise in water pollution levels, with UNESCO recently reporting that, “Despite improvements in some regions, water pollution is on the rise globally.” And while the tourist attraction of Monet’s gardens in Giverny, France remains as pristine as is surely needed to keep the visitors coming back, Banksy here depicts the idyll as being corrupted by discarded shopping carts and traffic cones—a metaphor for the fallout of rampant consumerist behaviors.

 

Banksy’s Show Me The Monet (2005), Photo by Michael Bowles/Getty Images for Sotheby’s.

 

“In one of his most important paintings,” observes Sotheby’s‘ European Head of Contemporary Art Alex Branczik, “Banksy has transformed the Impressionist master’s famous garden at Giverny into a modern-day fly-tipping spot. More canal than lily pond, he litters Monet’s composition with discarded shopping trollies and a fluorescent orange traffic cone. Ever prescient as a voice of protest and social dissent, here Banksy shines a light on society’s disregard for the environment in favor of the wasteful excesses of consumerism.”

The ironies extend to the prices that Banksy’s works now command, with his Devolved Parliament last year fetching £9.9 million (approximately $12.2 million). The estimate on Show Me the Monet is more in the £3-5 million range—though no one would be shocked if the live-streamed, October 21 auction finds it significantly topping that number.

“Long considered the apogée of Impressionism,” observes Helena Newman, Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department & Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, “Monet’s instantly-recognizable portrayal of the Japanese Bridge at Giverny is the sort of work a serious collector will live in hope of acquiring. And here we see Banksy take ownership of that, by putting a tongue-in-cheek mark on what has been held up by generations as an icon of Western Art History.”

Which naturally begs the question, Will this work be similarly subverted a century from now?

 

Banksy’s Show Me The Monet (2005), photos by Michael Bowles/Getty Images for Sotheby’s.
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