Shredding a painting generally erodes its value, but apparently not when the shredding is done by Banksy, and in a very public stunt. The anonymous street artist's Girl with the Balloon famously descended into a shredder hidden in its frame immediately after it sold at an auction in London in October 2018. It was apparently supposed to fall to the floor in shreds, but became stuck halfway through the shredder, where it remains. Renamed Love is in the Bin, the artwork will hit the auction block again next month, and Sotheby's expects it to fetch between $5.5 million and $8.3 million, or up to six times the previous sale price of $1.4 million, per CBS News.
"When Girl With Balloon 'self-destructed' in our saleroom, Banksy sparked a global sensation that has since become a cultural phenomenon," says Alex Branczik, Sotheby's chairman of modern and contemporary art. He calls the birth of Love is in the Bin "the most spectacular artistic happening of the 21st century." It spawned 30,000 news stories, according to Sotheby's. "It also provoked important questions about artists and the art market"—with some interpreting the shredding as a critique of the pricey art market, art historian Matthew Israel tells CNN.
But some, like Israel, believe Sotheby's was involved in the stunt. The auction house denies any knowledge of Banksy's plan for the painting, though that raises questions about how closely the auction house examines its artworks. And as CNN notes, "it is Sotheby's that ultimately benefited from the chaos around the sale." Plus, the identity of the winning bidder, described as a longtime Sotheby's client from Europe, has never been revealed. The artwork is now on a world tour—with stops in London, Hong Kong, Taipei, and New York—ahead of its planned sale on Oct. 14. (The shredder has been deactivated.)