On Friday, October 5th at the auction house Sotheby’s in London, a painting shredded itself after its sale. The price? $1.4 million.
Sotheby’s held ‘Frieze Week’, a contemporary art sale, all of last week. Frieze Week auctioned off other works of art Monday-Thursday, but the true finale occurred on Friday, when “Girl With Balloon” spontaneously shredded itself upon purchase. Sotheby’s head of contemporary art in Europe, Alex Branczik said,”we have not experienced this situation in the past, where a painting is spontaneously shredded upon achieving a record for the artist.” The man behind the stunt? Notorious street artist Banksy. Since the 1990s, Banksy has been alive and well in London–clearly seen from his rat and monkey stencils and political messages.
Photo courtesy of Bristol Post in the United Kingdom.
But as the years progressed, Banksy’s art became more aggressive and borderline offensive. For example, an inflated doll of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner was inflated by Banksy and placed inside the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride at Disneyland.
Photo courtesy of Mental Floss.
Plenty more stunts and artistic presentations by Banksy have been done, as shown by merely searching his name–but shredding his own painting after its record-breaking sale? That’s not just sending a message, that’s making a statement to the rich people of London (where Banksy’s work was first discovered) that empty consumerism is something Banksy is uninterested in. Eager bidders stood around “Girl With Balloon” hung up peculiarly on the wall rather than usual, on an easel. A private bidder, the name of whom Sotheby’s refuses to release, bought the painting for $1.4 million. Immediately after the sale gavel slammed down, “Girl With Balloon” shredded half of itself with a made-from-scratch shredder installed in the bottom of the frame.
So, how did one of the most prestigious auction houses in the world not notice how heavy the frame is? Or replace the frame? Well, it’s quite common for artists to give instructions with the handling of their art–including the request to keep the art inside its given frame. The artist, in this case Banksy, insisted that the frame was part of the presentation, and indeed it was.
Sotheby’s is similar to every wall, every telephone box and Disneyland that have been bombarded by Banksy with no warning; his performance art is both tangible and experiential. Surprisingly, however, the most urban presentation of his art, the shredding at Sotheby’s, will increase the value by almost 50%. Considering the $1.4 million sale is a record for Banksy’s art, the increase in value will add to it.
If this stunt says anything about Banksy, it’s that his work is both instigated by political tides and eager to change them. Expect to see more of his work as tensions rise during this upcoming election and other worldly politics become uneasy.