Opinion

New Video Indicates Banksy’s Sotheby’s Shredding Didn’t Go According to Plan

Banksy II: Electric Boogaloo: “In rehearsals it worked every time.”

The director’s cut showing the stunt’s intended outcome. (screenshot of Banksy’s Youtube)

Banksy II: Electric Boogaloo

Don’t you hate it when your publicity stunt goes wrong, leaving you no choice but you issue a clarifying statement that garners … wait for it … more publicity? Ah, Banksy, who could say no to you? Last night on his Instagram, the artist advertised the director’s cut of Shred the Love — the official documentary released to chronicle the making and deployment of the custom frame that sent the print “Girl with a Balloon” (2006) through a hidden paper shredder moments after the print sold at a Sotheby’s auction for £953,829 (~$1,251,423).

“Some people think it didn’t really shred. It did,” said the post, accompanied by an image of the print, leading a bio link of the director’s cut, which includes an epilogue that features a successful test run of the frame in the artist’s studio. “In rehearsals it worked every time,” says the video.

“Some people think the auction house were [sic] in on it, they weren’t,” Banksy’s post proclaims. True or not, footage from the pre-auction reception catches a Sotheby’s employee specifically mentioning that the artist supplied the frame.

“The artist put the frame on as well,” says the man, “You get that quite often with Banksy — he quite likes the romanticism of having a National Gallery-esque frame.” Banksy does love his romanticism; everyone says that about him.

I have to wonder about the need for clarification in this case — whether or not Banksy intended to entirely shred the work is a little beside the main point, which is that it is a publicity stunt which continues to accrue the notoriety that buttresses the artist’s market value. The video only reveals that the stunt was a partial failure, mechanically speaking — in terms of outcomes, it could not have been more successful.

As if to prove that Bansky’s penchant for public attention is certainly more of a career booster than a truly alienating or destabilizing act, the Paris auction house that will be the next to sell (or attempt to sell!) some Banksy prints expressed their hope that the artist would stage another round of hijinks.

“Are we expecting it? Not really. Perhaps we are hoping for it,” said auctioneer Arnaud Oliveux, of Artcurial auction house in Paris, as reported by Reuters. “I would love it if something happens.”

As for the buyer, one presumes that most people who buy a piece of million-dollar art would consider it compromised, whether it is half-shredded or shredded all the way. The only thing that makes this particular edition of “Girl with a Balloon” exceptional is the fact that it was shredded. And, of course, the frame, which is now not only a unique piece of art history, but a handy functional gadget when you decide that painting is dead and need to quickly get rid of all your other million-dollar pieces of art. We live in a post-truth society, people, and the only relevant form is post-art, so get to shredding!

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