Going, Going, Gone…

Going, Going, Gone...

Anna Burt, Arts and Culture Staff Writer

As the final bid was decided at Sotheby’s “Frieze Week” evening contemporary art sale, alarms rang through the room. Before the audience’s eyes, and under art enthusiasts’ noses, Banksy’s “Girl with Balloon” began to shred itself. It later emerged that this was achieved through a shredder built into the frame. At the end of the chaos, Sotheby’s and the painting’s unnamed buyer were left with a half-shredded canvas hanging out of its frame.

Banksy is a street artist, vandal, and political activist. He has been working unnamed for over twenty years in every corner of the globe. While his identity may be unknown, his beliefs are not. Banksy is firmly anti-establishment and vocally anti-capitalist. He views capitalism as a corrupting force in our society. In regards to art, Banksy holds that the current art market is robbing art of its message and impact. This is one of the reasons he operates as a street artist, as a wall cannot easily be sold at auction.

All of this is to say that the mere appearance of “Girl with Balloon” at a Sotheby’s auction was an anomaly. The shredding of the painting only served to heighten the situation’s peculiarity. As the art world reeled from this stunt, Banksy came forward to claim it as his own. He first posted a picture of the half-shredded painting with the caption “Going, going, gone…” to his Instagram. This was shortly followed by a video detailing how he orchestrated the shredding, this time with the caption “The urge to destroy is also a creative urge.”

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Banksy’s Instagram post originally claiming the shredding.

Recently, Banksy has gone a step further than simply claiming the stunt on Instagram. The work was officially authenticated by Pest Control, Banksy’s body of authentication, and renamed Love is in the Bin. Closely following this authentication, the anonymous buyer officially verified that they were keeping the work.

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Sotheby’s display of the newly re-named Love is in the  Bin

While the immediate events surrounding the shredding are beginning to die down, speculation surrounding the event is only beginning. In an October 6th article, Banksy Painting Self-Destructs After Fetching $1.4 Million at Sotheby’s, Scott Reyburn, writing for the New York Times, raised questions whether or not Sotheby’s was involved in the shredding. Reyburn questions why the auction house specialists and art handlers did not notice that the frame was “rather heavy and thick for its size”.  He also points out the break from custom of hanging the painting rather than simply placing it on a podium. Finally, he is suspicious as to why the Banksy piece was the last at auction.

The Art Assignment, a PBS Digital Studios Production, has done its own speculation surrounding the shredding. In a recent video, Behind the Banksy Stunt, host Sarah Green questioned the identity of the anonymous seller. Sotheby’s claimed that the seller acquired the piece the year it was made after a show Banksy organized in a warehouse in Los Angeles. Green, however, is suspicious of this claim. She  and many others believe that seller was Banksy himself. As Green deftly put it she would be looking out for some “very public 1.3 million dollars expenditures from Banksy in the near future”.

Whether or not these claims are ever validated, Love is in the Bin has taken its place within the chronicle of Banksy work and within art history as a whole.