Three years after shredding itself the moment it sold at auction, a painting of a young girl holding a red heart-shaped balloon by elusive British artist Banksy is going back under the hammer next month with a price tag of up to $8 million. Onlookers gasped after the bottom half of the then titled “Girl with Balloon" was sucked into a shredder hidden in its frame as the hammer fell following a bid of 1,042,000 pounds at an October 2018 auction at Sotheby’s in London. The buyer proceeded with the purchase and the artwork, since authenticated as a work in itself and renamed “Love is in the Bin", is being offered for sale with a price estimate of 4 million - 6 million pounds ($5.54 million - $8.31 million). Experts then had said the ‘Girl with Balloon’ was probably worth even more because the stunt created a media stir that made many reassess their understanding of performance art.
“It’s gone up tremendously, nearly four times, obviously, since that last time. But I think also in the interim, Banksy’s market commercially has also grown exponentially," Oliver Barker, Sotheby’s European chairman, told Reuters. “It’s very rare to find an artwork by any artist, which is truly the icon not only of that artist, but actually in the art world itself."
But there was always a nagging question: Why did only half the painting slip through the frame? Was there a deeper meaning? Did Banksy — whose identity is known only to a select group of loyal friends — try to tell us something we were still failing to grasp? The secretive artist admitted on a video posted on his Instagram account this week that the real answer was much simpler. The painting got stuck.
“In rehearsal it worked every time," he wrote at the end of a three-minute clip showing how he practised sending an identical painting through a shredder in a frame. The entire thing sailed straight through.
The only question left unanswered was whether Sotheby’s itself was in on the prank. The auctioneer’s face appears to show something verging on anxiety and surprise. But both Sotheby’s and the artist were letting that mystery hang in the air, that is until Banksy himself took to Instagram and disclosed that the auction house wasn’t in on the prank or his intent.
“Love is in the Bin" will be displayed at Sotheby’s in London before travelling to Hong Kong, Taipei and New York and returning to the British capital for the October 14 sale.
(With inputs from Reuters.)