Two Questions on Banksy’s Shredded “Girl with Balloon” Painting

October 10, 2018 by Jack Dziamba. New Post Goes Up Every Wednesday.


Banksy Girl with Balloon Shredded

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).


Stephan Keszler, an art dealer who has sold more than two dozen large Banksy works over the last few years, disagreed. Keszler argued that the deep-pocketed Banksy collectors he counts as clients are more interested in acquiring the graffiti pieces that first appeared as guerilla tags on buildings, rather than works on canvas such as Girl With Balloon. He thinks the $1 million price is already an inflated figure—“a very, very, very high price,” as he put it.
“This work should have sold for £200,000—if he hadn’t shredded it no one would be talking about it,” said Keszler, who has sold Banksy art that appeared on buildings for as much as $1.2 million. “Now they’re saying it’s going to be $2 [million] or $3 [million] or $4 million, which is totally crazy.” (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.

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2 comments on “Two Questions on Banksy’s Shredded “Girl with Balloon” Painting

  1. As a former gallery co-owner & dealer since 1971 I disagree. I believe the particular piece, Girl with Balloon, is now more valuable due to its notoriety since the partial shredding. I also believe the piece will appreciate. As naive as it may sound I believe the auction house did not know the shredding would occur & were taken by surprise. Yes, Sotheby’s is a world renowned & sophisticated auction house however a hidden shredding device is something that can slip past those that inspect, move & handle a lot. To my knowledge this is a first-time happening. Finally, does Suzanne Gyorgy know for a fact if a professional advisor was hired by the buyer or any potential buyer? I think not. Her statement, as professionally sound as it may be assuming an advisor or inspector had been hired is conjecture as far as I’m concerned. We need to give Banksy his due!

  2. By the way, heard the buyer, the news said a female, paid the nearly 1.5 million today! She’s taking the painting, shreds & all. Smart!

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