On Oct. 5 in London, seconds after the Sotheby’s hammer came down on the sale of a Banksy painting for the equivalent of $1.4 million, the crowd heard a repeated beeping, almost as though a tiny truck were backing up, and as Girl with Balloon slipped through the bottom, now shredded, onlookers gasped.
“A few years ago I secretly built a shredder into a painting in case it was ever put up for auction,” the anonymous artist explained in videos he posted the same day on both Instagram and YouTube.
He also included a quote by Pablo Picasso on his Instagram page: “The urge to destroy is also a creative urge.”
Truth. But is the painting actually destroyed? I’m not sure it is. It’s become something else entirely: Now it’s the only Girl with Balloon—and there are other copies that have sold at auction, not to mention the original, which Banksy spray-painted on an East London wall back in 2002—that has also been shredded.
And the shredded painting still exists. It’s not destroyed. It’s metamorphosed into what some might see as damaged goods and others might see as big fat dollar signs. Slap this frame with the partially shredded painting hanging out below into a new larger frame that contains it all and it’s not just Post Modern, it’s post Post Modern.
Maybe It’s both a subversive artist statement and a publicity stunt—and basically everyone, from the artist to the buyer to those who witnessed the shredding in real time to us watching it now, wins.