Note: This post has been moved from Latest Picks due to length of extended updates.
A printed copy of the iconic work, Girl With Balloon, which depicts a girl with a heart-shaped balloon floating away from her was sold by Sotheby’s in London on Friday night for £1,042,000—matching Banksy’s previous record at auction in 2008—but as the auction gavel dropped the canvas suddenly dropped through a mechanism installed in its frame which shredded it, leaving the strips dangling from the frame.
The auction house said they were in discussions with the buyer about what the next steps would be.
Well, if they were unaware some questions perhaps need to be asked so as how the mechanism was remotely operated to commit the act on cue leaving Sotheby‘s European Head of Contemporary Art Alex Branczik musing “We are busily figuring out what this means in an auction context” but the Auctioneer and European Chairman Oliver Barker gushing that it was “a brilliant Banksy moment” and the enigmatic artist sharing a picture of the act on Instagram with the text “going, going, gone” and a video showing how him secretly building the shredder in case the print copy of the iconic artwork made in 2006 ever went up for auction along with a quote: “The urge to destroy is also a creative urge”—Picasso”.
The anonymous buyer perhaps placated by an Joey Syer, co-founder of MyArtBroker.com suggesting that the shredded artwork and the Dadaist anti-art act surrounding it, an act Mr Branczik phrased as that “it appears we just got Banksy-ed”, could now have doubled in value.
The auction result will only propel this further and given the media attention this stunt has received, the lucky buyer would see a great return on the £1.02M they paid last night, this is now part of Art History in its shredded state and we’d estimate Banksy has added at a minimum 50% to it’s value, possibly as high as being worth £2m+.
But despite seeming to know very well how to add controversial value to his work and with much “fucking legend” expressed in the comments on Instagram, an post-ironic last laugh would be if “lucky buyer” rather than said to be “surprised” after their newly acquired work—ranked as the UK’s number one favourite artwork (Wikipedia)—was destroyed he or she now stated: “But that’s not what I paid for and I‘m not sure if I want it now.”
Anti-establishment Banksy may still laugh, but heads at Sotheby‘s may be less gushing and “re-price” the artists work in future after the stunt in order to allow his work to be as “free” as he seemingly wishes, the stunt and the attention caused perhaps related to the Banksy auction failing to reach pre-auction sale estimates last year in NYC (verdict.co.uk, Dec. 2017).
Updated 10th October 2018
Indeed, copycats have copied the the stunt in an attempt to inflated their print’s value too:
The seller supposedly sliced strips into the expensive piece with a stanley knife, then requested the print be listed for a minimum of £80,000.
But being 1 of 600 mint conditions prints was told as it was just “opportunistic vandalism” and told to jog on. Oh, how rascally Banky must be laughing so hard.
Updated 13th October 2018
Indeed, BBC arts editor Will Gompertz giving the now re-titled “Love is in the Bin” work 5 stars presumably out of 5 and, looking like you might imagine a critic to look, having a paint sketch of himself in place of the girl and balloon now having to admit in opening paragraphs that “I was wrong” for vehemently arguing that “the past century artists have failed to outwit and outdo Marcel Duchamp” and his dadaist anti-art urinal and that his review here is not for the print of the 2006 work described as “canvas in a mock Victorian frame” but for the conceptual stunt leaving “shredded canvas hanging from the bottom of the frame, which is on display at Sotheby’s, London throughout the weekend.”:
This is what I think about Love is in the Bin. It will come to be seen as one of the most significant artworks of the early 21st Century.
It is not a great painting that can be compared to a late Rembrandt, or a sculpture to sit alongside Michelangelo’s David, but in terms of conceptual art emanating from Duchamp’s Dadaist sensibility, it is exceptional.
Being “brilliant in both conception and execution” highlighted with “dark satire” the investment commodity that art has become to be “auctioned off to ultra-wealthy trophy-hunters”.
Indeed, it now more suited to being prominently displayed “throughout the weekend” and fawned over as conceptual masterpiece beating any flashing on and off lights or pile of bricks displayed in a gallery with something existential to impart to critics at least with a mind to comprehend once it becomes it becomes famous enough to say “I was wrong”.
Seemingly the anonymous presumably wealthy buyer has seen the light too, “she ” saying: “At first I was shocked, but I realised I would end up with my own piece of art history” with potential buyers suggestively already lining up with offers. But Gompertz does raise a point which to some may make the whole thing as manufactured as anything Duchamp found “readymade” and about as spontaneous and real as an arts equivalent of any of the scripted reality show we love to hate:
Maybe the whole thing was an elaborate prank by Banksy.
He could have put the piece up for auction through an associate and then bought it for the staggering sum of £1m knowing full well the sale wouldn’t go through because the work was about to be destroyed.
Or rather knowing full well the sale would go through and having all those videos of him making the frame and shredder ready for Instagraming.
And also raising an awkward point for Sotheby’s:
Were Sotheby’s in on it?
If not, just how bad is its security not to spot an inbuilt metal contraption with (I assume) a remote control device installed?
The media has portrayed the self-shredding of the Banksy painting as a counter-cultural act—perhaps a remark upon the corporate greed of the art markets, or the pure ridiculousness of the art world in general. But this is no anti-capitalist gesture. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.
Being in Bence Nanay, article writer and Professor of Philosophy, University of Antwerp’s opinion “nothing short of an emotional ode to the art markets”.
How does Banksy make money? (Or, a quick lesson in art market economics) (artspace.com, Mar. 2018).
Updated 19th October 2018
But it seems not all went to plan:
Now, Banksy has uploaded a video suggesting the entire canvas was supposed to shred, and not just two thirds of it.
And, while he has your attention again, the caption to a video of a canvas shredding in full saying: “In rehearsals, it worked every time.” That would of course left the act a work of performance conceptual art (tate.org.uk)—and still certainly enough to have you need to visit his social media—and not left an art icon in the form of a frame with the dangling strips which experts and critics now stand before marveling at, as again with BBC arts editor Will Gompertz doing again after another paragraph deferring judgement to his “dear old Marcel Duchamp”:
So you could argue that the installation piece of an empty frame on a wall, with the shredded canvas beneath it, would actually be worth more, than what could be considered an ‘incomplete’ artwork, stuck in the frame.
Saying that though, some might imagine them doing the same over a waste paper bin it had been collected into with a plaque in front had it fully shredded.
But leaving Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s head of contemporary art in Europe, to reiterated in a new interview that the auction house was not in on the attention grabbing stunt.
A Sotheby’s spokesman said: “The new narrative is that Banksy did not destroy a work on its premises, he created one, adding value not detracting.”
Indeed, who is creating the “narrative” here and exactly what is its message? As with much in the arts it seems you can take or leave from it what suits.
Updated 26th October 2018
But other auction houses are determined, like The Who, that they won’t be fooled again, “adding value” or not:
With three silkscreens and a plastic statuette of a rat holding a paintbrush by Banksy for auction at Artcurial in Paris yesterday.
The aunction [sic.] house has admitted security will be tight and that this time no hidden shredding devices appeared to be concealed in the frames.
Despite, not wishing to be seen as establishment fuddy-dudies, the Artcurial auctioneer telling Reuters last week his company would be “delighted” if Banksy was planning another surprise. But the auction went without a hitch or any value adding conceptual art performance extras—the lot going for 120,000 euros ($137,000[, £106,492]) in total (uk.reuters.com).
Updated 5th February 2019
The German museum displaying Banksy’s painting that partly self-destructed at auction has “deactivated” the artwork’s shredding device.
So that it does not get set off accidentally by viewers, staff or Banksy or agent squeezing some more anti-art attention out of it while it is on long-term loan to the Stuttgart museum and currently on display at Frueder Burda de Baden Baden for four weeks.
- Banksy Les Misérables mural covered up by developers (Latest Picks 25th January 2016)
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