Back in 2018, Banksy pulled off one of his most infamous art world pranks to date. After being sold in a Sotheby’s auction for more than £1 million, one of his best-known artworks, Girl With Balloon, promptly self-destructed, to the shock of both the audience and auction house staff.
“It appears we just got Banksy-ed,” said the Sotheby’s senior director Alex Branczik when the sale ended, and the picture passed through a shredder mounted in its frame.
As is customary, the street artist himself provided more insight into the hoax on Instagram. “A few years ago I secretly built a shredder into a painting,” he explained in a video that documented the installation. “In case it was ever put up for auction.”
Despite the the obvious differences between the artwork they were bidding on and the “finished artwork” – which was renamed Love is in the Bin following the stunt – the buyer went ahead with the sale, paying £1.1 million. As expected, the purchase appears to have been a pretty good investment.
Reflecting its newfound place in art history, estimates for Love is in the Bin have skyrocketed over the last three years, with the upcoming Sotheby’s sale expected to fetch between £4 million and £6 million. (In the past, Banksy has played down speculation that the auction house was in on it all along.)
Even without his trademark pranks, Banksy’s art has been steadily gaining value at auction, with his NHS-dedicated Game Changer image smashing estimates to bring in £14.4 million back in March. His profile has also risen worldwide, leading him to warn fans about a series of unauthorised shows, which have been criticised for containing replicas of his work.
Most recently, Banksy popped up in a series of British seaside towns, creating anonymous installations for his Great British Spraycation.