by Lucy Middleton
Going, going, gone! As the auctioneer dropped his gavel at the premier art destination Sotheby’s, shockwaves reverberated through the packed-out saleroom, shredding the art world as we know it.
The auctioned piece making headlines, Girl with Balloon, has always posed a conundrum to the art world. The contemporary work displayed in a contrastingly heavy Victorian frame pokes fun at the art establishment. Girl with Balloon isn’t just a pretty face, she has a perplexing message to deliver. The work asks essential, yet ambiguous, questions such as: is the girl reaching up for the balloon, conveying a sweet depiction of childhood? Or has she just let go of the balloon, sending it away into the atmosphere releasing the remains of innocence?
This mystery has always been endearing and enticing. Still not satisfied, Banksy wanted more questions to be answered directly by the art establishment when he took the saying ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ one step further. As alarms sounded and the piece of work self-destructed, the art world destabilised and propelled into a frenzy with gasps and dropping of champagne glasses. The elite were clearly spectacularly astounded.
Imagine how you would feel triumphantly winning a bidding war against art connoisseurs, happily paying over one million pounds for a piece of Banksy’s artwork (the tied highest amount paid for one of Banksy’s work) only to see it demolished into strips in front of your eyes, with the auctioneering exclaiming “we are going to move on”.
Clearly Banksy’s stunt is targeted at the exorbitant prices that works of art demand for themselves. With the majority of the sixty-seven lots at Sotheby’s auction selling higher than a million pounds, the art market is undoubtedly exclusive. In essence art is being choked to death by money. This prank victimises affluent individuals whom are willing to pay ludicrous prices for a piece of an artist’s reputation, rather than buying for an aesthetic quality.
Yet, despite universal astonishment, did Banksy’s trick backfire and instead conform to the regulated art establishment?
As Pablo Picasso said “the urge to destroy is also a creative urge”, and as the hidden shredder ate part of the canvas that made up Girl with Balloon, a new piece of art was regurgitated, now certified as titled Love is in the Bin. Whilst destroying the original work Banksy created art history. Through gaining global attention the artist has not only boosted his reputation but added value to the already extortionate market. The destroyed work is now a piece of art in its own right, and undeterred by its alteration the female European collector confirmed the sale, despite ‘being shocked’ at first.
With Love is in the Bin put on brief public display at Sotheby’s new Bond Street Galleries and the shredded remains estimated to have tripled the piece in value, the plot of artistic terrorism has in principle failed. Tiredly, the ‘Banksy’ed’ destruction, set to excitingly shred the art world, has complied with the demanded regulated constraints of the market.