Going, gone: did Sotheby’s back Banksy stunt?
Shredded print attracts queues as opinion divides on the role of auctioneers
It may be in tatters, but that didn’t stop art lovers queuing down the road yesterday to view the Banksy print that shredded itself at auction.
People flocked to Sotheby’s to see for themselves the work that stunned the art world last Friday when it descended through the razored teeth of a device built into the frame shortly after being sold for £1,042,000. The stencil print originally known as Girl with Balloon and now titled Love Is in the Bin went on display in the gallery in central London, where viewers streamed out of the door on to Regent Street as the acid synths of the Chemical Brothers provided the soundtrack for selfies with the halfdestroyed masterpiece.
Art lovers were divided on whether the auction house had been aware the stunt was coming.
“I think Sotheby’s was in on it,” said Stephanie Fielding, a Canadian marketing executive. “One would hope in an age of security consciousness they would have known that such a contraption was inside the artwork.”
Others were more reluctant to suggest that Banksy and the auctioneers had conspired together. “I don’t think Sotheby’s knew,” said Matteo Perazzo, an Italian photographer. “Banksy is opposed to the art establishment, so it would be weird if he had colluded with them.”
The buyer, reportedly a female European collector, still wants the work, which she considers “my own piece of art history”.
Sotheby’s stressed that it had “no prior knowledge of this event and were not in any way involved”, while its European head of contemporary art said earlier this week: “I took it for what it was – a coup on the art world.”
“When we asked the artist’s studio about removing the work from its frame during the cataloguing process, we were expressly told not to,” a spokesperson said.
“We were told that the frame, which was glued, was integral to the work; that breaking it would damage the work, and negatively impact its artistic value.”
Banksy did not respond to requests for comment but his media spokesperson asked whether the exhibition was busy.
Banksy’s shredded print is rehung.