On Friday, October 5th, 2018 at the Sotheby’s Auction House in London, Banksy would shock the art world once again. The famed, anonymous British street artist has been known to pull stunts that have turned heads within the worldwide art community. The 2006 reproduction of his painting, “Girl with Balloon” sold for $1.4 million before the piece automatically shredded itself upon the cue of the auction’s final hammer blow.
The following day, Banksy posted a video via social media exposing his methods regarding the destruction of the painting. The video revealed Banksy installing a secret shredder into the piece’s frame several years prior. The artist captioned the post with a quote by Picasso, “The urge to destroy is also a creative urge.”
Spectators were left to wonder: Was Sotheby’s in on the big secret? The auction house’s Senior Director & Head of Contemporary Art, Alex Branczik, declared, “It appears we just got Banksy-ed.” Sotheby’s insists they had no prior knowledge of this stunt. The auction house purchased “Girl with Balloon” directly from Banksy, leaving room for reasonable doubt that Sotheby’s had taken part in the ruse. Art dealer Steve Lazarides announced that he does not believe Sotheby’s had any part in the shredding of this piece. “It was an act perpetrated solely by Banksy as an extension of his long history of punking the powers that be with his art.”
Now the question is: Is the piece even more valuable now or worthless? Of course, there are those who believe the piece lost all value once it descended from its internal shredder. However, many believe it to now be worth much more, as it is now considered to be a piece of performance art.
We don’t believe it comes as any surprise that this event marks the “first time in auction history that a work of art automatically shredded itself.” Obviously, all involved were forced to reevaluate the sale, post-shredding. So where is the “Girl with Balloon” now? The piece has be given a new name, “Love Is in the Bin” and has been re-displayed at the Sotheby’s art gallery. Until the next ruse, Banksy.