Banksy, the absolute mad lad that he is, has once again taken the art world for a ride, shredding one of his iconic pieces moments after it sold for almost $1.9 million.
If you’re not too well-versed in just who Banksy is, well, you’re not alone. He’s an anonymous street artist whose stencilled satires of society have long been highly sought-after pieces in the art world.
If you’re more into the music side of things, you’ve likely seen Banksy’s work on the front of Blur’s Think Tank record, heard the rumour he’s the bloke from Massive Attack, or seen how he bamboozled everyone by sneaking a fake Paris Hilton record into music stores many years ago. Needless to say, the bloke is a little bit of a card.
Now, he seems to have taken his art to the next level once more.
Back in 2002, Banksy painted Balloon Girl, one of his most famous and enduring artworks. Arguably his most iconic piece, it originally sold for £37,200 back in 2007, before a print of the piece sold for £56,250 back in 2015.
However, on Friday, the piece again went under the hammer at UK auction house Sotheby’s, but this time history was about to be made.
As the piece sold for the record price of $1.86 million, the image itself began to self-destruct, thanks to a shredder built into the frame of the artwork.
A video posted to Banksy’s social media accounts soon confirmed that he was behind the incident, having installed the shredder “a few years ago […] in case it was ever put up for auction”.
While footage of the destruction is on its way to becoming iconic, Sotheby’s themselves made a statement regarding the now-viral incident, explaining that “it appears we just got Banksy-ed.”
Although Sotheby’s have noted they’re “in discussion about next steps” with the buyer, some art critics have noted the piece has possibly doubled in value after its shredding.
Artist Pierre Koukjian has echoed this sentiment, noting the buyer is “very lucky” to have bought the piece, calling the incident “a turning point in the history of contemporary and conceptual art”.
Koukjian, who has met Banksy previously, believes the anonymous artist was actually present at the auction as it all went down.
“What he did is really shocking, in a good way,” Koukjian said. “I think it will be historic and people will talk for a long time about it.”
Of course, with such a talked-about incident going down, people have already begun to offer their own speculation in regards to the artwork, with some calling the whole thing a hoax.
Banksy’s spokeswoman, Jo Brooks, confirmed that the stunt was genuine, and even noted that Sotheby’s had been in on the whole thing. After all, with a multi-million dollar auction house, you’d think they’d expect the artwork carefully enough to discover a shredder in the frame.
Others though have begun to speculate that the image itself did not shred, pointing out that it looks as though a second image was actually in the frame, similar to the classic ‘magic money printer machine’ trick.
So, I have a theory about that Banksy shredded girl w/the red balloon:
It's not shredded. It's still rolled up inside the frame. A pre-torn canvas rolled out from behind the one in front that is rolled up behind itself. The torn canvas doesn't line up w/the one in front: pic.twitter.com/fuyCaxAcMj
— Steve Bowler (@gameism) October 6, 2018
Others still have actually theorised that this stunt was a continuation of the original artwork’s theme. As a user on Reddit explained, “It’s part of the piece, not just a stunt.”
“It’s a picture of a girl who lost her balloon,” they explained. “The buyer lost their piece. They both can still see the thing they want, but they can’t have it any more. That’s mixed media art of the highest caliber, and the value of that piece just skyrocketed, especially with all this press.”
Whatever the case, it certainly appears that after 30 years in the art game, Banksy still has the ability to shock everyone with new and exciting ways of conducting himself.