Show me the Monet is one of Banksy’s most provocative paintings. It depicts an idyllic, impressionist water lily pond with a Japanese bridge. The view is spoiled by fly-tipped shopping trolleys and red plastic cones polluting the scene. It is an extremely rare entirely hand-painted canvas that helped cement Banksy’s position as a controversial and decisive social commentator for our time.
The work is such a complex and strong comment – JACOB THAGE, 2019.
The painting was acquired by property developers Roland and Jane Cowan directly from the artist’s landmark 2005 exhibition Crude Oils: A Gallery of Re-mixed Masterpieces, Vandalism and Vermin. Banksy repurposes an iconic image in the western canon: Claude Monet’s career-defining view of the Japanese footbridge in his water garden at Giverny.
In 2005, collectors Roland and Jane Cowan allowed Banksy to use one of their vacant properties to mount the Crude Oils show. The anonymous street artist was looking for a gallery or space that would allow 200 live rats to be let loose in the gallery. The exhibition which lasted 11 days was held at 100 Westbourne Grove in a West London basement.
The couple bought Show Me the Monet (2005) for £15,000, according to Banksy’s former agent, Steve Lazarides. Another work was given to the couple for their support. The tongue-in-cheek pun of a title, Banksy’s painstakingly observed re-painting delivers a complex dialogue that tackles prescient issues of our time, such as the environment and the capitalist landscape of our contemporary moment, not to mention the art establishment and its current identity crisis. With a sumptuously rendered orange traffic cone and a thickly textured shopping trolley disrupting the romance of Monet’s iconic Impressionist masterpiece, Banksy’s version is more twenty-first-century fly-tipping spot than timeless idyll. Delivered with the ironic dead-pan immediacy of a punchline, the underlying conceptual complexity at stake here belies its humour.
Show me the Monet was most recently exhibited at the Museum Jorn, Denmark in From Jorn to Banksy – The Art of Détournement. Shown alongside some of the most critically acclaimed artists of the last century such as Marcel Duchamp, Kurt Schwitters and Joan Miró, it was contextualised within a greater art historical lineage; an institutional framework that underscores the authenticity and power of Banksy’s best work. The Museum Jorn’s director Jacob Thage wrote:
“The work is such a complex and strong comment on the institution of art, but also a comment on consumerism vs. culture. Today I perceive it as one of the most important works of art in this century so far.”
Based on a painting by Claude Monet, depicting an iconic image of the Japanese bridge spanning the lily pond of his lush garden at Giverny are some of the most recognisable images in art history. Executed between 1897 and 1899 on canvases measuring approximately 90 by 90 cm, Monet painted twelve variations on this same composition depicting the same view at different times of the day, during different weather conditions and seasons of the year. Of these twelve, eight are prized in the collections of the Museé D’Orsay, Paris; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia; The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Art, Moscow; The National Gallery, London; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton; Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum, Cairo; and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Representing the apogee of Monet’s oeuvre, these are the holy grail of Impressionist paintings.