Banksy, ‘Laugh Now’ (AP)


  • Banksy
  • Laugh Now
  • 2003
  • Screenprint on paper
  • 70 cm x 50 cm
  • Certificate of authenticity issued by Pest Control
  • Signed and numbered by the artist
  • Edition of 69 artists proof
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Laugh Now, one of Banksy’s early works, was first commissioned by the Ocean Rooms nightclub on Morley Street in Brighton. It was originally a six-metre long spray painted mural with the figure of the monkey repeated ten times in a row to form a backdrop to the Brighton bar.

In 2003 the piece was also reproduced as a limited edition print for sale with only 150 signed and 600 Laugh Now unsigned prints in the series. In 2008, Ocean Rooms sold the painting at Bonham’s for what was then a record auction price of nearly half a million dollars. Today, Laugh Now is one of Banksy’s most internationally recognised works.

Laugh Now is rendered in Banksy’s signature monochrome stencilled style. It portrays a forlorn monkey, wearing a sandwich board bearing the words “Laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge”. The heavy board, along with the monkey’s slumped shoulders and sunken eyes suggest that he is oppressed or enslaved.

Along with the rat, the monkey is one of Banksy’s most frequently used animal characters. Satirising the nature of humankind, Banksy uses these animals as didactic figures in his critical social commentary. The catchphrase on the board is also typical of those often used by the artist to convey powerful or poignant messages to his audience.

Laugh Now could also be seen as a criticism of the way that humans have been treating animals, in particular our primate cousins, throughout the course of history to this day, whether poaching or capturing them for entertainment or medical testing. The provocative text on the board is both mocking and threatening, clearly suggesting that the character is preparing for an uprising, as if Banksy is warning his viewers of an imminent revolution.

Since it was first seen in 2002, several versions of the stencilled monkey motif have appeared in Banksy’s oeuvre. Notably, it was displayed on the occasion of the artist’s first solo show Existentialism which took place in Los Angeles later that same year, alongside other provocative aphorisms including “Keep it real” or “Lying to a cop is never wrong”.

Following its record-breaking sale in 2008, a milestone auction for Urban Art, the artwork was subsequently exhibited in Amsterdam in 2017 at the Moco Museum, located in a breathtaking traditional mansion called Villa Alsberg, next to the famous Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum. Laugh Now was the centrepiece of the eponymous exhibition, although more than fifty indoor and outdoor works by Banksy were displayed, including the iconic Girl With Balloon and other recognised works such as BarcodePulp Fiction, and Kate Moss.

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