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Shredded Banksy Artwork Seller’s Strict Instructions Prior To Its Sale Revealed
By Mikelle Leow, 18 Oct 2018
Image via Sotheby’s
Could there have been early signs of Banksy’s stunt for the iconic painting, formerly known as Girl with a Balloon, that flew above everyone’s heads?
The shock following the elusive street artist’s prank, which saw the artwork shredding itself seconds after being sold by art dealer Sotheby’s on Friday, 5 October, sifted from the art world into the mainstream. Brands and artists alike were mimicking the move, and consumers were lapping up these attempts.
As it turned out, Banksy had hidden a shredder within the frame of the artwork, renamed Love is in the Bin. Both the artist and Sotheby’s denied that the latter had been in the know about the stunt.
So, what transpired before the famous Girl with a Balloon became Love is in the Bin? Sotheby’s directors have revealed what its interactions with the Banksy seller were like; make of these clues what you will.
Firstly, it’s likely that the seller is on close terms with Banksy. Stated in the original verification certificate by Banksy’s authentication board, Pest Control, the painting was a gift to someone named Jo “for work on Barely Legal show, Los Angeles, 2006,” according to The Art Newspaper.
Jo Brooks, Banksy’s publicist, declined to comment if she was the one who had been gifted the artwork.
Sotheby’s divulged that the artwork’s previous owner would sell it if the dealer had met two of their conditions: it had to appear in the evening sale, and that it was to be hung in the auction room.
However, these prerequisites were not suspicious, said Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s head of contemporary art in Europe.
Branczik detailed that it was common for sellers to say, “I will only give you this if you put it in an evening sale.” Further, many would ask for their artworks to be hung as “they believe that the assembled crowd are likely to bid more.”
The painting’s low estimate of £200,000 (US$262,000) to £300,000 (US$393,000), which the consignor had agreed to, meant that many would be coveting after it that evening. One interested buyer, Jonathan Cheung of Maddox Gallery, asked Sotheby’s about the low estimate; the dealer replied that since it was a gift to the consignor, “they would be happy with anything.”
Interestingly, Sotheby’s had asked Pest Control if the frame of the piece could be removed, but Banksy’s representatives said it was “integral to the artwork.”
Pest Control’s claim ensured the success of the Banksy stunt. When Sotheby’s hired a third-party conservator before the sale to observe the piece, the person did not question the frame, even though it was thicker and heavier than usual, and had a slit at the bottom.
“[I]t was more like a sculpture,” Branzcik said. “If [the seller] says the frame is integral, you don’t rip it apart.”
Sotheby’s defends that the painting isn’t damaged. A spokeswoman for the art dealer said, “It is a different work to the one that appeared in the catalogue, but nonetheless it is an intentional work of art, not a destroyed painting.”
Branzcik underscored, “The work was not completed until nine-something PM… This is the art work that Banksy intended, it was designed to be like this.”
[The Art Newspaper, cover image via Sotheby’s]
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