It’s official: Banksy’s “Girl With Balloon” is now a new piece of performative art.
The fate of Banksy’s 2006 spray-paint work has been uncertain since the U.K. street artist’s stunt last Friday at a Sotheby’s auction in London. After selling for $1.4 million, the painting suddenly slipped through a remote-controlled shredder hidden in its frame.
Then the questions began: Would the sale remain valid? Would the winning bidder want the altered work? Would its new, half-shredded form be worth less or more, given its elevated status after the global media attention?
On Thursday, Sotheby’s offered answers.
After a week of negotiations, the winning telephone bidder — whom the auction house described in an Instagram post as a “longstanding client” who is a “female European collector” — is going through with her purchase at its original price. Half of the image is still visible in its heavy, gold frame, while the other half – now simply a skirt of shredded paper fringe — dangles below it. Sotheby’s, which boasts that the new work “was created in our salesroom,” is now calling the piece “the first work in history ever created during a live auction.”
The anonymous buyer says the work marks a seminal event.
“When the hammer came down last week and the work was shredded, I was at first shocked,” she said in a statement, “but gradually I began to realize that I would end up with my own piece of art history.”
To mark the fact that the work, after its transformation, is now an entirely new piece, Banksy has renamed the painting. It’s now: “Love Is in the Bin” (2018). His official authentication body, his company Pest Control, has recertified the work and granted it a new certificate.
There have been questions whether — and to what extent — Banksy may have collaborated with the auction house to pull off the elaborate stunt, which is an anti-capitalist critique of the art market.
But Sotheby’s denies it was involved.
“Were we in on it? Absolutely not,” Sotheby’s head of contemporary art in Europe Alex Branczik posted on Instagram. “Do you really think Banksy, who spent his youth stenciling walls in Bristol and dodging the local authorities, would want to collaborate with the art establishment? … Come on, you should all know better.”
The painting, which was auctioned as part of Sotheby’s “Frieze Week” contemporary art sale, will this weekend be on view at Sotheby’s New Bond Street galleries in London.
Follow me on Twitter: @debvankin