The auction house says it didn’t know anything about it. The artist famously doesn’t like to show his face. The buyer is a mystery. So, for that matter, is the seller.
In the case of the “self-destructing Banksy”, nothing adds up.
The startling stunt at Sotheby’s in London on Friday has set the art world aflame. The image of a girl reaching out for a red, heart-shaped balloon had just sold, for $1.4 million.
Moments later, a shredder hidden inside the picture frame began to whirr, the canvas slid down, and at least part of it ended up in strips.
Sotheby’s claimed it had been “Banksy’d.”
The British street artist, famous for being faceless, is certainly well known for his stunts. In 2006 he secretly erected a life-size replica of a hooded Guantanamo Bay detainee inside a ride in the California Disneyland theme park. In 2013 he set up a stall selling his original artwork for $60 in a New York market and filmed people passing by, convinced that because of the price, the works were fake.
On Saturday, Banksy published a video on Instagram that purported to show how he built a paper shredder into the frame of the 2006 painting “Girl with a Balloon.”
“The urge to destroy is also a creative urge,” Banksy wrote, citing Picasso.
But the video didn’t answer everyone’s questions — not least about the involvement of the auction house.
“I wouldn’t put it past Banksy to have staged the whole thing, and I wouldn’t put it past him to have pulled this off without anyone being on it,” Brooklyn based street art curator RJ Rushmore told CNN. “But whatever the ‘truth’ is doesn’t change the performance for me.”
Was Banksy in the room during the auction?
There is speculation that Banksy, who has kept his identity hidden for more than 20 years, may have been in the room at the time of the sale, possibly overseeing the whole performance while filming on his phone.
Footage circulating on the internet shows a middle-aged man, wearing thick-rimmed black glasses, filming the moment when the picture is shredded.
Shortly after, the man is seen being escorted out of the room.
Was that Banksy?
In 2016, scientists at Queen Mary’s University in London used geographic profiling, based on the artist’s movements, to identify him as a man called Robin Gunningham.
The authors conceded that their study fell short of definitive proof.
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