If there’s one thing we know about Banksy, it’s that when it comes to art world conventions, they give precisely zero you-know-whats!
Still, the art world is stunned after what may just be Banksy’s most brilliant stunt of all.
Banksy makes no bones about their disdain for the latter part of the “art vs. commerce” debate. They even made a documentary (mockumentary?…both?) derisively called Exit Through the Gift Shop that is, at least in part, about that topic.
So the epic troll they pulled at Sotheby’s auction house in London on Friday is right on-brand. Moments after one of their paintings sold for $1.4 million, it self-destructed.
The piece, “Girl With Balloon,” spray paint and acrylic on canvas, depicts a young girl reaching for a heart-shaped balloon. Mere seconds after the gavel pounded on the sale, the painting ripped itself to ribbons in a shredder hidden within its frame.
Shortly thereafter, Banksy released a video on Instagram detailing how they pulled off the stunt.
The post included the quote:
The urge to destroy is also a creative urge.
Banksy, like many others, misattributed the quote to Picasso. The quote was originally made by 19th-century Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakunin.
Or was the misattribution part of the prank?
In a press release, Sotheby’s Senior Director Alex Branczik summed it up perfectly:
It appears we just got Banksy-ed.
Branczik was careful to specify that he was not “in on the ruse,” and it’s still unclear what triggered the shredder.
One theory is that Banksy attended the auction incognito and triggered the shredder at just the right moment—an idea supported by an article in Vice that cited a report in The Art Newspaper that “a man dressed in black sporting sunglasses and a hat was seen scuffling with security guards near the entrance to Sotheby’s shortly after the incident.”
But no one is certain if Banksy is a man, a woman, or an art collective.
Naturally, social media blew up after the stunt.
And some theorized that the destructive stunt would only increase the value of the painting.
And, according to The Guardian, they’re absolutely right.
Joey Syer, co-founder of website MyArtBroker.com, told the newspaper:
This is now part of art history in its shredded state and we’d estimate Banksy has added at a minimum 50% to its value, possibly as high as being worth £2m plus.
And when it comes to Banksy, it’s hard to think of a more fittingly topsy-turvy outcome than that!