Banksy is the stuff of legend in the art world, having maintained his anonymity for years.
He straddles the line between public icon and street artist in an interesting and contradictory way that has graffiti artists questioning his commitment to street-art, while his paintings sell for millions to collectors.
Recently, the famous ‘Girl With Balloon’ was auctioned by Sotheby’s in London, fetching just over £1 million (R19,5 million) moments before it self-destructed.
Banksy posted a video on Instagram explaining the destruction. Here’s the BBC:
Quoting Picasso on his Instagram, Banksy wrote: “The urge to destroy is also a creative urge – Picasso.” The clip starts with a caption, saying: “A few years ago, I secretly built a shredder into a painting.”
The video then shows someone in a hoodie installing the device, before another caption, saying: “In case it was ever put up for auction.” The video then shows the moment the painting shredded itself at the auction house on Friday, captured on a mobile phone. It is unclear how the shredder was activated.
The video was deleted from Banksy’s account shortly after he posted it, but another Twitter user, Zoe Smith, managed to capture it:
So Banksy put a video on Instagram and deleted it almost immediately about the whole shredder in the painting. I screen recorded it for anyone who missed it! pic.twitter.com/uryPvP21ge
— Zoe Smith (@zoelouisesmithx) October 6, 2018
John Brandler, director of Brandler Art Galleries, described Banksy as “the ultimate publicity artist” and said the stunt was “absolutely brilliant”. After the artwork was shredded, speculation started as to whether the buyer would still have to pay for the piece.
Mr Branczik told the Financial Times the auction house was trying to “figure out” what the stunt means. He said: “We have not experienced this situation in the past …where a painting spontaneously shredded, upon achieving a [near-]record for the artist.
“We are busily figuring out what this means in an auction context.” In a statement on its website, Sotheby’s described the incident as “unexpected” and said it had become “instant art world history”.
It seems like what was intended as a critique of the art world and the money that drives it backfired for Banksy, which might be why he removed the video so soon after posting it.
Instead of upsetting people, the stunt may have actually made the piece more valuable.
Mr Brandler said the more publicity works of art get, the pricier they tend to become. “It was the best publicity stunt he [Banksy] could think of,” he said.
He might be famous, but he’s lost a lot of his street cred. Banksy is so cemented in the art world now, that he can’t even destroy his work without getting praised for it.
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