IT was one of the most stunning, audacious art pranks in history.
Street artist Banksy caused a sensation when he rigged one of his best-known works to self-destruct just minutes after it was sold at Sotheby’s in London for $1.7 million.
Now, the mystery buyer of his 2006 work Girl With Balloon, has spoken about the shredded painting for the first time as Sotheby’s denies it was in on the prank.
Minutes after the buyer placed her winning bid by telephone, an alarm sounded inside the frame and the painting started to shred to pieces in front of shocked onlookers.
The bidder, who won it over the telephone last Friday, remains anonymous, but Sotheby’s said she is a longtime European collector. In a statement released through the house, she said: “When the hammer came down last week and the work was shredded, I was at first shocked, but gradually I began to realise that I would end up with my own piece of art history.”
Sotheby’s said that the woman has decided to keep the shredded painting. The auction house said that Banksy’s authentication body, Pest Control, re-authenticated the 2006 Girl With Balloon. It has also been renamed Love Is In The Bin (2018) — an indication that the artist sees it as a new work.
Sotheby’s said it had nothing to do with the intervention. “Were we in on it? Absolutely not,” said Sotheby’s expert Alex Branczik, posting a shredded image of the work to his Instagram account.
Branczik called for an end to the “speculation” and crazy conspiracy stories.
“Do you really think Banksy, who spent his youth stencilling walls in Bristol and dodging the local authorities, would want to collaborate with the art establishment? Come on.”
Even so, the auction house is capitalising on the marketing bonanza drummed up by the event: It said the new owner has agreed to let it display the work in its Mayfair showroom for the next week.
Now that the work has been authenticated, its value should remain intact and could likely grow, dealers said.
Banksy keeps his identity shrouded in mystery and has gained international acclaim for politically charged street art.
“Banksy didn’t destroy an artwork” during Sotheby’s sale, Branczik wrote. “He created one.”
Originally published as Banksy buyer breaks her silence