As an artist, I completely understand the feeling of wanting to shred my own artwork. But in Banksy’s, this was taken to a whole other level.
On Oct. 5, Banksy decided to “troll” the art world by shredding his own artwork at a Sotheby’s auction. His art piece, the “The Girl with the Red Balloon,” sold for $1.4 million. Just as it was auctioned off by a hit of the gavel, a loud beep could be heard throughout the audience, followed by the elusive noise of artwork being shredded.
Of course, I can’t entirely agree with the whole idea. I mean we’re talking about $1.4 million going into a shredder. Any struggling artist and starving musician would think Banksy was losing a few marbles.
But from Banksy’s point of view, it all makes sense. If you’re an artist that nobody knows the identity of and your spray paintings are signs that “you were there”, having any one of them being sold and kept in someone else’s house goes against all your hard work.
Banksy lives for an anonymous lifestyle. He’s popular for his artwork being alive for a few moments before being taken down. His street art combines dark humour with graffiti through a distinctive stenciling technique. His works of political and social commentary have been featured on streets, walls and bridges of cities throughout the world.
With all this, he must have known that at some point his artwork would go up for auction. I feel that if I were in his shoes, I wouldn’t give away a painting just like that. Sure, I can always re-make it, in a sense. But it’s not the same as seeing something you worked so hard on be sold at an auction in front of dozens of people who don’t value the painting as you do. The main point is that he doesn’t create his spray paintings for the money, but for the message he conveys through them.
Banksy was trying to send a message through his work. But what about the people attending the auction? All they saw was art created by a mysterious being that the world doesn’t even know that could probably be worth more than a crippling economy.
After the shredding at the auction, Banksy released a video of him building the frame and installing the shredder into it.
Some people critiqued Banksy for doing what he did because his actions, in trying to say “f*** you” to the government, actually backfired. Instead of making the painting worth less, it caused the painting to be worth more.
Aja Romano of Vox wrote that the shredding of the painting was the point Banksy was trying to make; that popularity bestows value in an age of commodification.
All in all, I personally would be glad to sell my artwork to rich people, because it shows that they appreciate my work, even if they don’t see it the same way as I do. So what if popularity causes the value of an item to increase? I’d rather be the owner of a valuable item than something that will soon become attic material.