By MIA ARANDA
A middle-aged man with thick black glasses watched the Sotheby’s auction in London on Oct. 5, 2018. At that moment, the auctioneer began to advertise a framed painting of the “Girl with a Balloon,” a famous piece by the artist Banksy, causing the the price to quickly escalate to $1.4 million. Applause filled the room when suddenly, fingers started to point in shock as people began to notice that the painting was shredding itself to pieces. Two officials immediately came to remove the painting from the wall. Ironically, the shredded pieces of the painting are now worth more than the original price.
So who is Banksy? Banksy is the name of the popular British street artist who goes town to town, creating graffiti art on walls and sidewalks; however, no one knows his real his identity. Despite how famous this artist is for his paintings across the world, no one has yet to discover his true identity. In addition to all of his exceptional artwork, Banksy has recently blown up on the internet with what could be considered to be the prank of the century in the art community.
According to footage of the Oct. 8 event, the man with the thick glasses was quickly escorted out of the room, which has led people to suspect that it was Banksy. In 2016, scientists from Queen Mary’s University did a study that identified Banksy as a man named Robin Gunningham. Coincidentally, the man caught on the footage at the auction showed many similarities to Gunningham, but nobody knows if it was him at the auction. Some have begun to suspect that Banksy may have had collaborators working with him on such a case.
On Instagram, Banksy posted the video of his self-shredding artwork with the caption “‘The urge to destroy is also a creative urge’ – Picasso,” which received over nine million views. People have commented that the artwork will skyrocket in value once the pieces are attached back together.
Many speculators have been questioning if Sotheby’s had been in on the stunt all along; however, there is no evidence to prove such a claim. According to Sotheby’s website, Alex Branczik, senior director and head of contemporary art for Sotheby’s, said, “It appears we just got Banksy-ed. We have not experienced this situation in the past where a painting spontaneously shredded, upon achieving a record for the artist. We are busily figuring out what time means in an auction context.”
According to the video Banksy had posted after the stunt, a caption wrote, “A few years ago I secretly put a shredder into a painting in case it was ever put up for auction.” The original painting had been spray painted on a building in East London in 2002 but had been made into many copies before appearing at an auction. This is “the first time in auction history that a work of art automatically shredded itself after coming under the hammer,” as said by Sotheby’s.