In one of the art world’s most outrageous stunts a Banksy artwork shredded itself moments after selling for $2m – now the damaged work has sold for vastly more.
A Banksy work of art that partially shredded itself moments after it was originally auctioned off has now sold for $34 million despite being damaged.
Love is in the Bin fetched £18.58 million at an auction in London on Thursday, millions more than what it sold for while in one piece in October 2018.
The sale price was a record for the anonymous British artist’s work.
The Sotheby’s auctioneer, who also sold the painting in 2018 which was then called Girl with Balloon told the crowd he was “terrified to bring down the hammer” as he was fearful the shredding stunt might repeat itself.
The original, which first appeared on a wall in East London, has been reproduced endlessly in prints and online, and appropriated by some of the world’s best-known brands.
At the 2018 auction Girl with Balloon, which was painted in 2006 and depicts a child reaching towards a heart shaped balloon, was sold for £1.1m ($A1.7m).
But soon after the hammer came down an alarm sounded inside the frame and the painting started to be cut to pieces in front of shocked onlookers.
A shredder has been hidden within the artwork’s large ornate frame. It left the picture dangling and partially destroyed outside the frame.
The stunt would have required Banksy or someone working for the artist to be in the room to activate the machine.
The shredding poked fun at the traditionally staid world of fine art and is typical of the graffiti artist’s disruptive style evident since his work first began appearing on the streets of Bristol in southwest England in the 1980s.
In an Instagram post, Banksy revealed how he carried out the prank.
“The urge to destroy is also a creative urge,” he said, quoting artist Picasso.
In the accompanying video, he showed a shredder being fitted to the frame of the painting in a workshop.
The footage opened with the caption: “A few years ago, I secretly built a shredder into a painting.”
The clip shows a hooded figure putting the finishing touches on the device, before text appears on the screen saying: “In case it was ever put up for auction.”
Despite accusations on social media that the stunt was a set-up, Sotheby’s maintained it was not in on the prank.
‘It appears we just got Banksy-ed’
At the time, the firm’s head of contemporary art Alex Branczik said, “It appears we just got Banksy-ed.
“He is arguably the greatest British street artist, and tonight we saw a little piece of Banksy genius. We are busy figuring out what this means in an auction context.
“The shredding is now part of the integral art work. We have not experienced a situation where a painting has spontaneously shredded, upon achieving a record for the artist.”
Mr Branczik predicted the image would make the painting more valuable, which it indeed did.
Thursday evening’s sale, which saw nine bidders battle for around 10 minutes for the work beat the previous record of £16.75m ($30.88m) set for Banksy in March.
Auctioneer Oliver Barker said the painting had become an “unexpected piece of performance art”.
“I can’t tell you how terrified I am to bring down this hammer,” Mr Barker adder to laugher as the final bid went unchallenged.
Banksy’s latest works have appeared in several British seaside towns over the summer, with the country’s most famous street artist confirming they were his creations in an Instagram video entitled “A Great British Spraycation”.
It showed him taking a summer road trip in a beat-up camper van with cans of spray paint stashed in a cooler.
In recent years, he has kept the attention of the contemporary art world with his social commentaries and causes – migrants, opposition to Brexit, denunciation of Islamist radicals – while still stirring the excitement of the moneyed art markets.
In March, the work that had broken his previous sales price record honoured caregivers during the coronavirus pandemic, with the proceeds donated to the state-run National Health Service (NHS).
The painting, Game Changer, sold to an unnamed buyer for £14.4m ($A26.5m) plus costs after fierce bidding at Christie’s auction house in London.