October 10, 2018 by Jack Dziamba. New Post Goes Up Every Wednesday.
On Friday night [October 5, 2018] at Sotheby’s New Bond Street salesroom in London, auctioneer Oliver Barker opened bidding on Banksy’s Girl With Balloon (2006) at £100,000. Clients on the phone pushed it beyond the high estimate of £300,000. It hammered at £860,000, or slightly over £1 million with fees.
Seconds later, the small canvas with a blood-red balloon slid through a shredder the artist had secretly installed in the frame, emerging in strips. A video that Banksy posted to his Instagram account has been viewed more than 10 million times in a matter of days. (Artsy).
Questions on The Shredding and Value of the Painting
1. Is the Work More Valuable Now?
“One could argue that the work is now more valuable,” Sotheby’s Alex Branczik said after the sale. As the thinking went, if the Banksy series was already well-known—the original stencil topped a 2017 poll of the best-loved work of British art—an event that Sotheby’s called in a release an “unexpected incident” and “instant art world history” would only make the work more valuable. (Artsy).
2. Did Sotheby’s Have Prior Knowledge?
Sotheby’s wouldn’t comment further, apart from insisting its top brass had no prior knowledge of the stunt—a stance that is becoming less believable according to commentators, who point to the logistics of installing a shredder in a frame. There’s a low probability such a device could get past Sotheby’s inspectors.
Suzanne Gyorgy, the head of Citi Private Bank’s art advisory and finance division, explained to a wealth management publication that simple due diligence from an advisory firm retained by a potential buyer would have uncovered any irregularities in the frame.