Remember when Banksy partially shredded his “Girl With Balloon” painting right after it sold for $1.4 million at a Sotheby’s auction in London in 2018? And how this was supposed to mock the puffed-up extravagance of the art market and the commodification of art (or, at least, it would have if the painting had been completely destroyed, as Banksy suggested he intended in a “director’s cut” video of the incident)? But, instead, the “destroyed” painting — recertified and renamed “Love Is in the Bin” — was then predicted to have at least doubled in value, and and the winning bidder still went through with the purchase overjoyed that she “would end up with [her] own piece of art history”?
It appears that’s not all she ended up with. On Thursday, the painting sold for 18.6 million pounds, or $25.4 million, at another Sotheby’s auction. Per the Washington Post: “That’s more than three times the auction house’s top estimate going into Thursday’s auction and more than 18 times what the spray-paint-on-canvas creation sold for in 2018 when it was intact.”
So let me get this straight: everything that Banksy was allegedly ridiculing with the shredding of his painting — how the art world is an absurd bastion of blowhard excess, how creative work is turned into fodder for hollow consumerism — just got proven right 18 times over? Does that undermine Banksy’s original act of subversion or just make it more profound? Is the art world in such a state that any attempted meta-critique is automatically defanged by the forces of the market? What is art? All of these are very interesting questions — or at least they would be if they were being asked by literally anyone else.
Perhaps for his next project, Banksy can address the final taboo of his long and celebrated career: that his art fucking sucks.