LONDON (AP) – A work by British street artist Banksy that sensationalally shredded itself right after it was auctioned off three years ago has grossed nearly £ 18.6million (25.4 million) Thursday – a record for the artist, and nearly 20 times its pre-shredded price tag.
“Love is in the Bin” was offered by Sotheby’s in London, with a pre-sale estimate of £ 4-6 million ($ 5.5-8.2 million).
After a 10-minute bidding war involving nine bidders in the auction room, online and over the phone, it sold three times the high estimate to an undisclosed buyer. The sale price of 18,582,000 pounds ($ 25,383,941) includes auction house fees known as the buyer’s premium.
The piece consists of a half-ragged canvas in an ornate frame bearing a spray-painted image of a girl catching a red heart-shaped balloon.
When it was last sold at Sotheby’s in October 2018, the piece was known as “Girl With Balloon”. Just as an anonymous European buyer made the winning bid – for £ 1million ($ 1.4million) – a hidden shredder built into the frame by Banksy came to life, leaving half the canvas hanging from the frame in bands.
Sotheby’s received criticism at the time for failing to detect the hidden shredder. But the 2018 buyer decided to proceed with the purchase, a decision that was confirmed on Thursday as the work’s price skyrocketed.
The work quickly became one of Banksy’s most famous, and Sotheby’s sent it on tour to cities like New York and Hong Kong ahead of Thursday’s auction.
Auctioneer Oliver Barker joked that he was “terrified” to drop the hammer to end Thursday’s sale. Sotheby’s staff were nervous until Banksy planned another surprise.
Alex Branczik. The president of Sotheby’s for Modern and Contemporary Art called the shredding “one of the most ingenious moments in performance art of this century”.
“It was a whirlwind to follow the journey of this now legendary piece and to find it among us, offering it tonight in the very room where it was created by the artist,” said Branczik. “Banksy is no stranger to making headlines and this latest chapter in his story has captured the imaginations of the world – we can only begin to guess what might follow.”
Banksy, who has never confirmed his full identity, began his career spray painting buildings in Bristol, England, and has gone on to become one of the world’s best-known artists. His playful and often satirical images include two male police officers kissing, armed riot police with yellow smiley faces, and a chimpanzee with a sign with the words “Laugh now, but someday I’ll be in charge” .
Several of his works have sold for millions at auction. In March, a Banksy mural honoring British health workers, first painted on a hospital wall, sold for 16.8million pounds ($ 23.2million) in a sale to Christie’s auction, until Thursday a record for the artist.
“Girl With Balloon” was originally stenciled on a wall in east London and has been reproduced endlessly, becoming one of Banksy’s best-known images.
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