by Cat Edwards
image courtesy of coryellerkramer.com
Banksy’s work has always garnered him the attention of the press. Whether because of his artistic vigilantism or the social commentary he provides through what he creates, the public can always rest assured that his work will never be out of the limelight for long. The recent sale and immediate destruction of his celebrated piece Girl with Balloon have brought him into the headlines again as, once more, he disrupts the artistic world and questions the way in which art operates. Why has this stunt created so much media attention and why does it matter?
This piece of art was sold at Sotheby’s for one million pounds. However, when it was officially sold, the work shredded itself and fell to the floor in perfectly ordered ruins. Banksy later uploaded and deleted a video of the shredding mechanism placed in the picture’s frame that would destroy the image in the event that it was sold at an auction. His stunt showed blatant disregard for the value of his art and the financial system that his work sits within.
This is not the first time Banksy has criticised capitalism. His exhibition Dismaland in 2015 gathered attention for its cynical depiction of the corporate machine. However, this latest stunt seems somewhat more shocking. The videos of the audience’s reaction depict a sense of bewilderment confined to a very specific time and place. The destruction of the artwork emits a visceral reaction from all that see it. The crowd gasps as the auctioneer tries to calm them down and bring their focus back to the financial element of the auction despite the outrage at the scene that occurs behind them.
The social media aspect of this performance piece is not something that can be disregarded either. As stated earlier, Banksy uploaded then deleted the video, meaning that only a few individuals were able to capture it. Yet, it later surfaced on other platforms and raised further attention around it. This social media manipulation and showmanship mocks the public, highlighting Banksy’s reputation for being a rebellious artist toying with the status quo.
As a PR stunt, nothing could have possibly highlighted his work more. It is a demonstration of Banksy’s disregard for material wealth and the price attached on his work by others. Ironically, this has meant that this piece has soared in value. A Guardian article revealed that “Banksy has added, at a minimum, 50% to its value.” His stunt may have been a way to show the insignificance of material wealth, yet it achieved the opposite effect. Bansky’s critique of capitalism fed directly into capitalism’s hands and the work is more celebrated than ever. It appears that the message Banksy was trying to promote has been twisted by the same institution he was trying to critique.