Normality in shreds: Banksy’s auction drama unfolds

The Banksy auction drama continues…

A strange thing happened in 2018 when a painting by Banksy began to self-destruct while on auction at Sotheby’s in London. Just after the spray-painted artwork of a girl holding a balloon sold for about £1 million, an alarm went off and the work slowly began to fall through a shredder hidden inside the frame. After it was about halfway through, the shredder stopped—or jammed.

Sotheby’s insisted that it had nothing to do with what was perceived as a Banksy style “prank,” even as it recently announced that the work—still half-shredded—will return to auction on October 14 with an estimate of £4 million to £6 million. If the sale achieves its high estimate, the painting will have appreciated nearly 500% in almost three years.

The 18 most-expensive works by Banksy to sell at auction have all occurred since the shredding incident. “The market for Banksy’s work has undergone such a dramatic change,” says Emma Baker, Sotheby’s contemporary art specialist. “It will be a real test.”

The anonymous buyer of the work in 2018 made news when she announced through the auction house that she would go ahead with the sale. Baker says that immediately after the sale, technicians from ‘Pest Control’, the name of Banksy’s authentication body, disabled the shredder.

“It no longer functions,” she says. “The mechanics are still inside but it’s been completely deactivated, so it won’t happen again.”

So, look out for Sotheby’s auction results on the 14th October!