Banksy is arguably the most iconic street artist of our time, who still remains anonymous, (although is probably Robert Del Naja, 52-year-old member of trip-hop trio Massive Attack, sorry for the spoilers).
International headlines have recently been captured by his latest anti-capitalist controversy. At Southeby’s Auction House on Saturday 6th October, it was revealed that a secret shredder had been built into his ‘Girl With a Balloon’ frame of the canvas which activated once it reached over £1m. Destroying the work before the eyes of the auctioneers “We’ve just been Banksy’ed,” said Alex Branczik, senior director at Sotheby’s. Usually, if art objects are damaged or broken before they leave an auction house the sale is invalidated, unsurprisingly the anonymous buyer (cleverly) agreed to keep the work which has skyrocketed in value as it earns itself a place in art history as the ‘most expensive piece of performance art ever sold at auction’. The physicality of shredding resonates with a lack of validity in the corporate and art world yet has ironically concreted Banksy’s name historically for the political passion prevailing his works. Leaving his live and digital worldwide audiences questioning who determines the value of art? The shredding was operated via a remote-controlled device— was Banksy in the auction house? I do hope so. His Instagram post has confirmed it was a deliberate and cleverly constructed plan, quoting Picasso, he captioned it “The urge to create is also the urge to destroy.” the video has over 13 million views (for now).
Banksy’s works are both iconic in their simplistic graffiti/cartoon stencil style and from their current, controversial messages. Usually, his works capture a bleak irony of modern society, especially under a capitalist regime. Banksy’s authentication body, ‘Pest Control’, have since, rather fittingly retitled his work, “Love is in the Bin,”. Similarly, in 2014 Banksy trolled the art market and our interwoven capital obsession when his prints were sold as authentic works around Central Park, New York for $60 each, a large sum to pay for what would seem to be an imitation. Alas, his loyal art fans were rewarded with a small fortune after their authentication estimated their resale at approx £120,000 (as estimated by Bonham’s, London,). Unsurprisingly the theme of authenticity prevails, controversy over ‘the shred’ and Banksys participation has again been confirmed on Instagram, “Some people think it didn’t really shred. It did. Some people think the auction house were in on it, they weren’t.”, a very direct and clear message from the artist himself. Personally, I think he’s a lot cooler when he doesn’t comment or clarify to his audience at all.
Finally I would like to add that if anyone has splashed their (for some reason enormous) student loan on a limited edition Banksy print please do not shred it as you will completely render its value to nothing, obviously. An online trend I came across which is extremely concerning entails just this. One very foolish very anonymous individual I found has devalued their work shamefully from an estimated £40k to £1 in an attempt to double their money according to ‘MyArtBroker’ who have also issued a warning consequent to their refused to even sell it online “…we just can’t believe the stupidity involved and the opportunistic vandalism.”.
Aware of the inescapable paradox of his anti-capitalist protest which inevitably promotes his self advertising not to mention the many companies who are using it for their own publicity and the many companies who will capitalise off further merchandise and the rich buyer of ‘Love is in the Bin’ even richer. Only Banksy’s has the privilege of such genius destruction. The act of destructing his own art generates a new kind of art as if artwork and artist are in a constant changeable relationship. Banksy continues to probe and threat mainstream ideology and culture and although we may seem to live wasteful and selfish disposable existences to him, Banksy’s art is still a highly necessary mass culture critique which certainly is not going to lose its popularity any time soon and nor is the late ‘Girl with a Balloon’ going anywhere near the bin.
Image credit: Getty images