“Going, Going, Gone…” Banksy’s Most Recent Masterpiece

Marina He ‘20

On October 5th, 2018, crowds in Sotheby’s, an international art dealer in London, gasped in shock as they watched anonymous English artist Banksy’s piece, Girl with the Balloon, slide down its frame, shredding into strips before their eyes just seconds after it was auctioned for about $1.4 million. The shredder stopped midway through, leaving the artwork partly shredded, partly intact. Officials at Sotheby’s quickly removed the painting to prevent further damage, leaving people in disbelief, amusement, and astonishment.

Banksy is known for his impactful and controversial artwork. Despite being so well known, his identity still remains a mystery to the world. He began his career with graffiti, using Blek Le Rat’s works as inspiration. At the age of 18, when hiding under a garbage truck from the police after being caught for vandalizing public spaces, Banksy discovered stencilled letters on the truck. Upon realizing that stencils were more efficient than graffiti, he switched to using this medium. He has had multiple exhibits around the world and has created many pieces in various countries. His artwork is known for its satire and dark humor, cleverly conveying his beliefs on art, philosophy, and politics, leaving the world hungry for more.

Girl with the Balloon was created in 2006 with acrylic and spray paint on canvas, originally valued at $254,000 – $381,000. The piece depicts a young girl in black and white, reaching out to a red balloon being blown away by the wind. The auctioned work is part of the Girl with the Balloon series that Banksy began in 2002, when he created this stencil mural on Waterloo Bridge, London. Since then, variations of this piece have appeared throughout London, all of which are no longer there. He also modified the artwork, changing it to depict a Syrian girl instead and incorporating the hashtag #WithSyria, to show his solidarity with Syrian refugees.

Following the auction, Banksy posted a picture of the painting on his Instagram, with the caption “Going, going, gone…” The next day, he posted a video, revealing that he had built a shredder into the frame of this artwork “in case it was ever put up for auction,” which included snippets of him constructing the secret shredder as well as footage from the auction. A few days later, he published a longer video on his website titled “Shred the Love – Director’s Cut.” The video provided further evidence that Banksy intended for this to occur, and revealed that the scheme did not go exactly as planned. The shredder was supposed to shred the entire painting, but had malfunctioned during the auction, stopping halfway.
This act is a historical moment in art history, specifically in instantaneous art history, as Banksy’s stunt created live art for the first time ever at an auction. It is now estimated to be worth double of what it was originally auctioned for, and the price may continue to grow over the course of time.

The woman who purchased the art decided to continue with her purchase, stating that “When the hammer came down and the work was shredded, I was at first shocked, but gradually I began to realize that I would end up with my own piece of art history.” Pest Control, Banksy’s authentication service, has certified this new piece of art, renamed as Love is in the Bin.