Friday 22nd October 2021 - Belle Gait
Famous shredded Banksy sold by Sotheby's
Art enthusiasts, graffiti lovers and Banksy admirers will remember well the day that one of Banksy's paintings shredded itself to the shock of onlookers.
Well-known for turning his nose up at the establishment, Banksy built a shredder into the ornate frame surrounding his piece Girl With Balloon. The image of a small child reaching towards a red heart-shaped balloon, originally stencilled on a wall in East London, has been reproduced endlessly and is now one of Banksy's best-known images.
The 2006 stencilled spray painting went up for auction on 5th October 2018 and sold for £1.042m. As the gavel fell, mere moments passed before a siren began sounding from the frame, and the painting itself began to drop through the frame whilst shredding itself.
Regarded by many as the ultimate publicity stunt, Banksy installed the self-destruct mechanism "in case it was ever put up for auction". It is said that he actually intended for the painting to shred entirely; however, the mechanism stopped about halfway, just short of the famous solitary red balloon.
Sotheby's, who did not know about the secret shredder installation, said it was "the first artwork in history to have been created live during an auction". After the sale, representatives of Banksy turned off and deactivated the shredder. They also immediately changed the work of art's name from Girl With Balloon to Love is in the Bin.
After this auction, there was much debate as to whether Love is in the Bin was a work of art or a piece of rubbish and whether it would be worth more or less in its new condition. Many contemplated whether the buyer would still be expected to pay the price for the painting now that it was partially destroyed.
Banksy himself posted a video of the live shredding with the tantalising caption "Going, going, gone".
It's been almost three years exactly since that famous day, and the one-of-a-kind work of painting has stunned the world again. Making an appearance in the same auction room at Sotheby's, the piece of live performance art opened with bids at £2.5m. It took only minutes for the price tag to reach £10m. The bidding war heated up as the price hit a staggering £15m. Nick Buckley Wood, who represented a private investor, finally made the winning bid at £16 million – his rival was unable to beat the offer and, as such, bowed out.
Mr Barker said: "At £16m, ladies and gentlemen, we are selling the Banksy at Sotheby's.
The audience then laughed as he admitted, "I can't tell you how terrified I am to bring down this hammer."
However, there were no more shockers from the partially shredded painting as the gavel fell. This sale and the record breaking price has clearly answered the question as to whether the work of art would be worth more after being shredded.
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Cover image by Dominic Robinson