Banksy reveals how he executed plan to shred $1.1 million painting after it was sold at Sotheby's auction
Banksy is well-known for his satirical street art and subversive epigrams, as well as his disdain for art auctioneers who have, in the past, attempted to get him to sell some of his photographs or reproductions of his street graffiti. The artist eventually gave in when he gave Sotheby's in London the permission to auction off one of his best-known works: Girl with Balloon. But one should have suspected that he had something a little more sinister in store.
In what is quite possibly one of the most audacious pranks ever to be executed successfully, Banksy waited until his art piece — which was the final item in the auction on Friday night — was sold for £1.04 million before activating a device within the frame that tore it to shreds.
As soon as the hammer came down, confirming the sale and equalling the artist's previous sales record, the canvas began to pass through a shredder installed in the frame. Banksy took to Instagram to revel at the moment, posting a picture of the piece as it was getting shredded with the caption, "Going, going, gone..."
The artist also depicted the lengths he had gone to execute his plan in another Instagram post which showed the shredder getting installed in the frame. The video was posted with a caption one of Pablo Picasso's most iconic quotes, "The urge to destroy is also a creative urge," and explained in the intro that he had built the shredder into the painting a few years ago in case it was ever put up for auction.
Speaking about the incident, Sotheby's senior director and head of contemporary art in Europe Alex Branczik said, "It appears we just got Banksy-ed." The Guardian also reported the auction house's statement on the prank which read, "We have talked with the successful purchaser who was surprised by the story. We are in discussion about next steps."
But the buyer, whose identity was not revealed, will not have to worry about the painting's value. In fact, all the signs indicate that its value has skyrocketed. MyArtBroker.com, a website that resells the artist's works, revealed that Girl with Balloon enjoyed annual increases in value of about 20% and that the "auction result will only propel this further."
"Given the media attention this stunt has received, the lucky buyer would see a great return on the £1.02m they paid last night." they wrote. "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."
While Banksy's identity has never been revealed, the Daily Mail reports that this recent stunt may have gone some ways in helping identify the artist. According to the site, the man who shot the video that Banksy uploaded on his Instagram bears a strong resemblance to Robin Gunningham, who was, in the past, speculated to be the elusive artist.
Gunningham also hinted further at him possibly being Banksy in an interview with Channel 4, delivering the same line from the caption of the video and telling presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy, "The urge to destroy is also a creative urge."
Watch the video of 'Girl with Balloon' being shredded here: