Banksy Shreds Own Artwork On Auction

The half-shredded Banksy painting
Source: eNCA

‘Anonymous’ yet still undoubtedly fabulously wealthy artist Banksy has struck again. In a stunt that is already causing major debate on social media sites across the world, the artist apparently attempted to shred his renowned painting Girl With Balloon moments after it was auctioned for $1.4 million. That’s no small change for what is now essentially strips of pretty coloured paper, and the average Joe would have to win big playing at an online casino to have got in a bid.

Many instantly celebrated the stunt as yet another quirky, ingenious statement against the fleeting nature of art. But others aren’t so convinced.

The shredder supposedly got stuck, destroying only half the painting. A mishap Banksy would later try and explain, claiming that his intention was to destroy the whole artwork. But anyone who knows anything about Banksy and previous stunts will rightfully raise an eyebrow. Was this an ingenious statement, or a rather blatant attempt to raise the value of the artwork, while still trying to hold the flag of being anti-establishment?

Shred The Love

Soon after the auction, a video was posted to Banksy’s Instagram account showing the process of creating the shredder. It was built directly into a frame, allowing for the shredding to occur dramatically during the action. In the video, effort is made to demonstrate that the shredder worked properly, and the closing text says ‘In rehearsal it worked every time.’

Clearly an effort to assure the world that Banksy is still the lovable, anonymous scoundrel so strongly associated with harsh social commentary. After all, if the notion arose that the artist was, in fact, as in love with money as everyone else, where would his credibility go?

But, as already said, the shredder got ‘stuck,’ so the artwork did not get destroyed. Where is it now, you’re wondering? Why, right back in a Sotheby’s gallery, which happens to have been the exact same gallery where the supposed shredding attempt occurred in the first place.

Previous Stunts

Plus, this isn’t the first time that there have been shenanigans around Banksy artwork. It was not so long ago that an apparent theft occurred in which an art piece was stolen. Supposed security footage was released, showing a figure entering into the gallery and walking out with one of Banksy’s artworks, arranged for a showcase set to occur the following day.

Not only were many suspicious about the “thief” in the video, who appeared to very much not have the mannerisms of you typical criminal, but likewise about the fact that the incident drew massive attention to the showcase. Point in case; the viral video of the “theft” drew massive attention, and therefore publicity.

In other words; free publicity via viral marketing campaign. Though, not everyone agrees.

The Debate Rages On

The half shredded artwork has now been given the new name of Love is In The Bin. A name presumably apparently given by Banksy himself, but don’t let that influence your opinion on if the incident went off exactly as planned. Either way, a queue to view Love is In The Bin stretched so far outside the London art gallery where it being displayed that many had to wait in the street.

Those in the queue were asked by The Guardian if they thought the incident was staged. A Canadian marketing executive, Stephanie Fielding, was quick to declare she thought that not only was the event staged exactly as it went down, but that she thought Sotheby’s was certainly in on the whole thing. An Italian photographer, Matteo Perazzo, however, jumped to Banksy’s defence. He pointed out that Banksy was opposed to the art establishment, so it certainly stands to reason there would be no collusion.

When asked, Sotheby’s declared that they had no prior knowledge, and were taken completely by surprise. One spokesperson went as far as to declare that he took the event as a coup on the art world. A line so perfect for the Banksy image that you would swear it was scripted.

A Value Added Event

If you believe that the partial shredding of the picture was or wasn’t planned doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. The fact is, the painting, in its half destroyed state is now worth a great deal more than it was previously. And that enormous jump in price is due entirely to the stunt.

So, if it was or wasn’t intentional, and if Sotheby’s was or wasn’t in on it, is irrelevant. Why is the painting more valuable than ever before? Because art, as we all know, is valued entirely by what buyers are willing to pay for it, and nothing else. Buyers are now willing to pay much more than previously, because it is a piece of art with an interesting and controversial story.

Make of these facts what you will. But if you think there will not be another similar stunt involving Banksy artwork in the near future that somehow increases the interest in his artwork, the value of that artwork or both, you’re just not paying attention.