“Going, going, gone…” What Banksy’s shredded Girl With a Balloon teaches us about the current art world.
It was London in 2006 and a European buyer was probably convinced she had struck the deal of a lifetime; she had just purchased a Banksy painting at Sotheby’s. She had made the purchase for no less than $1.4 million, a sum that is by no means small, but that became much too expensive as the events unfolded.
Bansky, in true anti-capitalist fashion, had set the painting to auto-destruct itself as soon as the deal was sealed.
The stunt was activated via remote-control and rocked the art world for years to come. People had questions; why? would its buyer still have to pay full amount? Is this a prank? All the meanwhile Banksy took it to socials to celebrate the act with the caption “going, going, gone”.
Image courtesy of Niv Singer
Complexities of the logistics aside, it was a very Banksy-esque stunt to attempt. For years the street artist has been using his work to comment on society’s most topical issues, leaving behind a trail of curious people who have bought onto the hype of his mysterious identity. The fact is, Banksy wouldn’t be Banksy if people could put a face to the name – and consequently neither would the half-destroyed Girl With a Balloon have sold for more than the average price of a large house.
Making use of this unusual position whereby anything and everything the artist produces will go viral, Banksy’s stunt had yet another unexpected twist. What is absolutely bewildering is that the shredded Girl With A Balloon is now worth significantly more than what it was purchased for in auction. Why? Because it represents an art-world version of the “Trojan horse”, an infiltration of the most prestigious art-selling institutions.
Known for challenging establishments and the more traditional approaches to art, having your paintings sold for such dizzying amounts probably has more than one of your rolling their eyes. How can someone tackling with six-figure bank deals be such a prole and egalitarian? The truth is, Banksy has always been fervently critical of the commercialisation of his own work. For example, he once went to Central Park and sold unsigned prints to passersby, for an entire day. Although these would have amounted to thousands of profitable dollars, Banksy’s profit was of 420 dollars.
All in all, it is sometimes dizzying to remember; this is a guy that started spray painting his art works onto walls. let’s not forget that.