In 2002, renowned street artist Banksy debuted his first Balloon Girl stencil artwork around the streets of London, which soon expanded into multiple variations of the original design throughout the 2000s. However, in 2018, attendees at a Sotheby’s auction in London were left both stunned and amused at the events that played out on one of the copies of Banksy’s Girl with Balloon works that became known as one of the greatest and most shocking events to occur at a live auction. In this article, we will unpack the events of this day by answering burning questions like “What happened to Banksy’s Balloon Girl artwork, where is it now, and how much is it worth since the incident?”. Read on to learn more about this historic moment in art auction history!
Table of Contents
- 1 Tracing the Legacy of Banksy’s Iconic Balloon Girl
- 2 From Balloon Girl to Love Is in the Bin
- 3 Speculations and Criticism
- 4 The Significance of Banksy’s Girl Without Balloon (2023)
- 5 Frequently Asked Questions
Tracing the Legacy of Banksy’s Iconic Balloon Girl
It was recently revealed in November 2023, that world-renowned graffiti and street artist, Banksy, hinted at his real name in a previously lost BBC interview that revealed his preferred name as “Robbie”. The name was revealed by the reported artist in 2003 when the reporter Nigel Wrench asked Banksy if he was known as “Robert Banks”. Instead, Banksy replied, “It’s Robbie”. Banksy has created many famous murals and print-based artworks, which have introduced alternative ways for street artists to engage with fields such as social justice, public art, and graffiti art in urban spaces.
One might also recognize the artist from his famous mural Balloon Girl, which took the art world by storm! Banksy created his iconic design Balloon Girl in the early 2000s across London as mural artworks along Waterloo Bridge, Shoreditch, and many other sites in the city.
The British artist’s use of the design became his signature motif used in advocating for various social campaigns over the last two decades, from the refugee situation in Syria to the Israeli West Bank barrier. In 2003, Banksy created a series of 23 prints with the design, followed by 600 unsigned prints and another edition of 150 signed artworks. In 2005, Banksy escalated his dissemination of Balloon Girl by creating a series of murals along the West Bank barrier with a variation titled Balloon Debate.
Girl With Balloon (2006) by Banksy
|Banksy (1974 – Present)
|Aerosol paint, acrylic paint, canvas, and cardboard in the frame
|101 x 78 x 18
|Where It Is Housed
|Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany
In 2007, a 2004 copy of the mural was sold on auction at Sotheby’s for $46,615 and removed in 2014 by Sincura Group. The artwork’s value then climbed significantly, as it was resold for around $626,552. By 2017, the artwork’s image and what it stood for in the United Kingdom was called out as the country’s favorite according to a poll by Samsung.
In 2020, Banksy’s Balloon Girl; Colour AP (Purple) sold for a record price of around $991,927, making it the highest bid proposed for a Banksy print on an online auction.
From Balloon Girl to Love Is in the Bin
So, what exactly happened to Banksy’s Balloon Girl print at Sotheby’s? October 5, 2018, marked a momentous day in the history of live auctions since Banksy’s artwork not only set a record price for his print but also managed to resell the artwork on the spot and skyrocket its value within minutes! The juiciest part of the moment was that the auction was going smoothly until Banksy’s print reached a whopping record of $1.3 million. The bid then closed for a brief pause with the audience already in awe of the record sale.
Not long after, Banksy’s Balloon Girl began to self-destruct to the sound of a siren. Banksy himself released a video of the work shredding before everyone’s eyes since he installed a secret mechanical paper shredder on the bottom of the frame.
This resulted in the lower section of the artwork being shredded into many strips, leaving the top half of the composition intact and within the frame. Sotheby’s statement from the moment described the event as something they had not experienced, “where a painting spontaneously shredded.”. Was this an event planned by pure genius? Perhaps, given that the audience quickly caught on, this must have been a pre-planned Banksy performance in the flesh, making the value of the artwork increase in real-time through the witnessing of his process.
The buyer who purchased the artwork in the first bid luckily chose to stick with the new partially shredded artwork, which was authenticated by the artist’s authentication body Pest Control. Banksy’s shredded artwork was also given a new title Love is in the Bin, which meant that the woman who purchased the work scored twice in not only receiving a Banksy artwork, but also a repurposed and new artwork from the performance. Sotheby’s then released a statement acknowledging Banksy’s genius as producing “the first artwork in history to have been created live during an auction”.
In 2018, Love is in the Bin was first unveiled to the public at the Frieder Burda Museum in Baden-Baden, Germany.
Banksy’s Love Is in the Bin Resale Value
In 2021, Banksy’s shredded artwork Love Is in the Bin re-emerged at Sotheby’s auction in October and was sold for an astounding $25.4 million, which reflects the value of the artist’s contribution to transforming the artwork and how his performance and creative genius led to such a massive sale. The creation of Love Is in the Bin has also been described as an “art intervention”, which suggests the disruptive nature of the work in both its legacy as a work of art that advocated for social justice, and an artwork that evolved through Banksy’s intervention to become a statement, historical event, and commercial success.
There is no other information about the buyer of Love Is in the Bin, however, it was indicated in a statement by Sotheby’s that the winning bidder was a female collector from Europe and a long-time client of the auction house.
Speculations and Criticism
How and when did Banksy devise this clever act? It is believed that Banksy planned and installed the shedding device shortly after his 2006 show Barely Legal in Los Angeles. The original artwork itself was, in fact, a gift that Banksy gave to a friend and he cleverly installed the shredder during this time such that if it were ever placed on auction, it would carry out its hidden purpose. Banksy also claimed that it was not his intention for the shredder to stop halfway through the auction, instead, it was intended to destroy the artwork.
It has also been reported that Banksy revealed his mechanical device in an earlier post on Instagram, but his post had been deleted. The video that Banksy published of the work shredding itself at the time was captioned with a statement that said, “In rehearsals it worked every time”, thus confirming that Banksy’s act was somewhat unintentionally intentional.
The event itself, being held by Sotheby’s in 2018 also generated some criticism and speculation around the truth concerning the auction house’s knowledge and transparency of knowing whether there was a mechanical device already in the frame or whether they lied about it to engage with the artist. This theory emerged after it was pointed out that it was Sotheby’s who would have also had significant gains from the sale of Banksy’s work.
In an interview with CNN, Sotheby’s maintained its innocence in that its staff did not know about the event that occurred or the possibility that there was already a shredder in the artwork. There have also been critical concerns about how staff did not notice the disproportionate weight of the artwork, which perhaps highlighted another concern with in-house inspections of such artworks.
The Significance of Banksy’s Girl Without Balloon (2023)
There are many important elements to unpack regarding the significance of Banksy’s historical intervention at a high-profile auction house, among many wealthy patrons and collectors of the art world. The idea of inserting an automatically self-destructing artwork emerged under the term “auto-destructive art”, initially invented by Gustav Metzger as a form of political activism in the context of postwar Britain in the 20th century. The term itself was established in the 1960s along with the movement and circulated widely in an article titled Machine, Auto-Creative and Auto-Destructive Art by Metzger, published in Ark (1962).
One of the key elements of auto-destructive art was that it was largely shaped by World War II, which was marked by mass destruction owed to the introduction of nuclear warfare and militant aircraft operations. Banksy’s self-destructing artwork is thus contextually connected to the parallels of wartime disaster and destruction via the process of shredding.
Banksy’s shredded artwork draws attention to the elimination of previous beliefs in art, especially since his work is known to be politically engaged. Metzger’s manifesto on auto-destructive art stated that such artworks “mirror the compulsive perfectionism of arms manufacture, polishing to destruction point”, which adds an interesting perspective on Banksy’s shredded artwork and the context of his “intervention”. Metzger himself experienced the atrocities of the Holocaust since he also lost his parents to Nazi attacks and knew first-hand of the Nazi state and their behaviors. He used this experience to fuel his art and raise awareness about the violence and brutality of human conflict.
Similarly, Banksy’s shredded artwork destroys many boundaries present in the contemporary art world. From previous assumptions about the art world to concerns about the appropriateness of where art can be “performed” to assert the “biography” or individuality of an artist. His work ultimately confronts the notions of class and value in art through Sotheby’s, which represents one of the many “rarefied domains of the wealthy”, known for showcasing almost ridiculous amounts of consumption. Today, Love Is in the Bin has been on a global tour with its first stop in 2023 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei.
Today, speculations continue to circulate regarding the identity of Banksy and the creation and intention of his shredded artwork, Love is in the Bin. We hope that this article has been useful in putting to bed some of your burning questions about the events that transpired at the 2018 Sotheby’s auction, as well as the aftermath and criticism of Banksy’s work. Additionally, we also hope to encourage you to contemplate further on the significance and role of such examples of auto-destructive art, and how they can be used to creatively educate and inspire others in important social causes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Name of Banksy’s Shredded Artwork?
Love Is in the Bin (2018) is the title of Banksy’s famous shredded artwork that was created during the October auction at Sotheby’s. In 2023, the artwork was exhibited at Incheon’s Paradise City resort in South Korea under a new title, Girl Without Balloon, as referenced by the Private Sales Director of Asia and Hong Kong from Sotheby’s, Nick Buckley Wood.
What Was Banksy’s Love Is in the Bin Artwork Previously Called?
Love Is in the Bin (2018) was previously titled Balloon Girl and Girl with Balloon, before automatically shedding itself at a Sotheby’s auction.
How Did Banksy’s Balloon Girl Self-Destruct?
Banksy’s famous Balloon Girl artwork automatically self-destructed during a live auction at Sotheby’s in October 2018, when an internal mechanical shredder began shredding the artwork alongside the sound of a siren shortly after the bid was closed. The artwork then became known as Love Is in the Bin. The shredder was previously installed by Banksy years earlier in the bottom section of the frame to destroy the artwork. However, the entire work was not destroyed since the shredder malfunctioned halfway, leaving the top half of the print intact.
Who Owns Banksy’s Love Is in the Bin?
Love Is in the Bin (2018) was purchased by an unknown female collector from Europe, which is the only known information about the buyer given by Sotheby’s.
Where Is Banksy’s Love Is in the Bin Artwork?
Since 2019, Banksy’s Love Is in the Bin (2018) artwork has been on permanent loan to the German museum Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. It was then resold to an unknown collector and is currently on a touring exhibition. The work was last exhibited in November 2023 at Incheon’s Paradise City resort complex in South Korea.
Jordan Anthony is a film photographer, curator, and arts writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. Anthony schooled in Durban and graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, with a Bachelor of Art in Fine Arts. During her studies, she explored additional electives in archaeology and psychology, while focusing on themes such as healing, identity, dreams, and intuitive creation in her Contemporary art practice. She has since worked and collaborated with various professionals in the local art industry, including the KZNSA Gallery in Durban (with Strauss & Co.), Turbine Art Fair (via overheard in the gallery), and the Wits Art Museum.
Anthony’s interests include subjects and themes related to philosophy, memory, and esotericism. Her personal photography archive traces her exploration of film through abstract manipulations of color, portraiture, candid photography, and urban landscapes. Her favorite art movements include Surrealism and Fluxus, as well as art produced by ancient civilizations. Anthony’s earliest encounters with art began in childhood with a book on Salvador Dalí and imagery from old recipe books, medical books, and religious literature. She also enjoys the allure of found objects, brown noise, and constellations.
Cite this Article
Jordan, Anthony, “Banksy’s Shredded Art – A Canvas in Chaos.” Art in Context. December 28, 2023. URL: https://artincontext.org/banksys-shredded-art/
Anthony, J. (2023, 28 December). Banksy’s Shredded Art – A Canvas in Chaos. Art in Context. https://artincontext.org/banksys-shredded-art/