Impressionist Claude Monet’s infamous depiction of the Japanese bridge in his garden at Giverny, The Water Lily Pond (1899), adorns the tote bags of every art student ever and continues to remain an art collector’s dream. Only a few iterations of the canonical work remain left in private hands, with versions residing on the walls of some of the worlds most acclaimed galleries including London’s National Gallery, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Come September 2021, three of Monet’s most celebrated works from this series will hang together in the National Gallery for an exhibition of Impressionist painters. Exciting times, I’d say.
Fine art’s very own ‘bad-boy’ Banksy put a spin on Monet’s masterful work back in 2005. Show Me the Monet is to be sold on 21 October and is estimated to sale for between £3m and £5m. That’s big bucks’ baby! Prior to the auction event, ‘Modernités/Contemporary’ Sotheby’s third livestream art sale, the work will go on a little venture of its own. It is to be displayed in Sotheby’s New Bond Street gallery for a special two-day viewing (18-19 September), before setting sale for New York (26-29) and Hong Kong (3-7 October). Unlike the rest of the world, who are predominantly experiencing the end of Summer 2020 from the lilos of their living room and beaches of their boudoirs, archival Banksy is out there globe-trotting!
The work was initially shown 15 years ago, as a part of Banksy’s second gallery exhibition titled ‘Crude Oils: A Gallery of Re-mixed Masterpieces, Vandalism and Vermin’ at 100 Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill, London. Banksy similarly left his mark on other famed artworks: Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers (1888) portraying helpless wilting florals; Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks (1942) modified by a raging brit in Union Jack boxer shorts post window break-in, and Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe (1962)re-faced with the legendary Kate Moss.
Banksy, according to Helena Newman, Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department, commands ownership over the masters ‘by putting a tongue-in-cheek mark on what has been held up by generation as an icon of Western Art History’.
Show Me the Monet, is seen to comment on consumerist culture, the weeping death of the environment and a self-criticism on the commercialisation of art. Whilst I appreciate that the work was some year sago, and visiting the Crude Oil exhibition back in the day must have been a trip and a half, not least because he hired 164 rats to share the exhibition space, I still cannot get over how 'on the nose' it all feels.
Don’t get me wrong I can mess with a bit Banksy. Devolved Parliament (2009), glorious. His lockdown rodent-toilet illustrations (2020), splendid. And of course, the shredded and dreaded conversation starter that everyone seems to open with when someone even fleetingly mentions any interest in the arts or visual culture. Girl with Balloon (2008), that was kind of cool. Yet, over time the self-destructive work made been feel somewhat of a similar state.
Alec Brancsik, Sotheby’s European Head of Contemporary Art states that ‘Recent years have seen seminal Banksy’s come to auction, but this is one of his strongest, and most iconic, to appear yet. From Love is in the Bin, to the record-breaking Devolved Parliament, to this take on Monet, October just wouldn’t be complete without a big Banksy moment.”
I question you to reflect on your thoughts regarding this piece? Do you too find it a bit trite or is Banksy’s banality righteous?
To discover what the outcome of the ‘canal-like’ recreation of Monet’s idealised lily pond, watch this space.
Cover image: Banksy, Show Me The Monet (2005) with two seated women. Photo: Michael Bowles/ Getty Images for Sotheby's. Courtesy of Sotheby's