In a shockingly anarchistic move, the mysterious artist Banksy, best known for the playfully biting socio-political commentary ever present in their stenciled graffiti work (whose true identity is a secret) rigged a painting to immediately shred itself upon purchase.
The piece was a spray paint on canvas originally called “Girl With Balloon.”
Moments after it sold for $1.4 million at the Sotheby’s auction Friday night in London, (a record for a Banksy), an alarm sounded and the painting began to shred itself to the horror of the art world’s elite bystanders.
Banksy later posted footage from the auction event, sharing a video on Instagram that showed the shredder being installed on the inside of the frame, supposedly years ago, in preparation for the destructive act, should the piece ever be auctioned off.
In true Banksy style, they added the caption:
The urge to destroy is also a creative urge.
The quote, which he mistakenly (maybe?) attributed to Picasso, actually comes from 19th-century Russian theorist of anarchism, Mikhail Bakunin.
The piece, which has since been authenticated and renamed “Love Is in the Bin” by Banksy, is already estimated to be worth more since the auctioneer’s gavel pounded out sold.
The New York Post reported that Sotheby’s head of contemporary art for Europe, Alex Branczik, dubbed it:
. . . the first artwork in history to have been created live during an auction.
While the New York Times is reporting this week that art dealer Offer Waterman told them with the publicity generated around the piece:
It’s become worth more as a conceptual moment than as a work of art itself.
The bold statement caused quite a stir. You can see the shock on the faces of those near the painting as they watch the piece shred before their eyes.
The video had a similar effect on Instagram, causing much discussion and appreciation for the artist:
Some were confused by the artist’s actions, while others applauded their efforts:
There were those who expected nothing less of the hooded graffiti artist and political activist:
As it turns out, the buyer decided to go ahead and keep the partially shredded piece:
The buyer, a female European collector and a long-standing client of SothebyÛªs, is proceeding with the purchase at the same price as was achieved in the room on the night. #LoveIsInTheBin #Banksy pic.twitter.com/IAwevnlHFP
— Sotheby’s (@Sothebys) October 11, 2018
In a statement made through Sotheby’s, the buyer said:
When the hammer came down last week and the work was shredded, I was at first shocked but gradually I began to realize that I would end up with my own piece of art history.
It looks as if many felt the same way the buyer didÛÓthat they’d gladly shell $1.4 million for a history-making piece . . .
— John Carson (@johncarson) October 12, 2018
Sotheby’s has said it had no prior knowledge of the stunt.