Sotheby's auctioneer Oliver Barker during the sale of Banksy's "Love is in the Bin" in London today. (image courtesy Sotheby's)

What’s shocking, unbelievable, and yet also completely predictable? The fact that someone paid $25 million for a half-shredded Banksy painting. “Love is in the Bin” (2006-2018) notoriously self-destructed during its first appearance on the block three years ago. Today, it sold for more than triple its high estimate at Sotheby’s Evening Sale in London, setting a record for the artist.

“I can’t tell you how nervous I am to drop the gavel on this one,” the house’s longtime auctioneer Oliver Barker said 10 minutes into bidding, his gushy tone belying exactly how not nervous, and accustomed to selling ridiculous things for millions of dollars, he really was.

Banks’s painting “Love is in the Bin,” originally titled “Girl with Balloon.” (courtesy Sotheby’s)

Originally titled “Girl with a Balloon” (2006), Banksy rechristened the work after the 2018 Sotheby’s sale, when a remote-operated shredder inside the frame began slicing the painting as soon as the hammer came down. The motor malfunctioned halfway through, leaving strips of limp canvas hanging out like a print job gone horribly wrong.

The anonymous British street artist, known for his disdain of the art market, claimed he had played a prank on the auction house, though some speculated Sotheby’s was in on the joke all along.

During today’s sale, the fringed painting suffered no further damage, but the slam of the gavel elicited gasps and applause from the crowd nonetheless. Confirming suspicions that the piece’s unconventional backstory would only increase its value, “Love is in the Bin” fetched £18,582,000 (~$25,424,356), a significant multiple of the £953,829 (~$1,251,423) it had originally sold for. According to the Wall Street Journal, at least nine aspiring buyers competed for the lot, eventually outdone by a phone bidder with Sotheby’s director of private sales in Asia, Nick Wood.

It’s fair to say the final price shredded the market’s expectations, if anyone still cares what those are, though we were hoping the work would magically transform into an NFT.

Valentina Di Liscia is the News Editor at Hyperallergic. Originally from Argentina, she studied at the University of Chicago and is currently working on her MA at Hunter College, where she received the...