Three years later, in the same auction room, “The Girl with the Balloon” did not self- destruct. “I can’t tell you how terrified I am about knocking down that hammer” joked Sotheby’s auctioneer Oliver Barker after 10 minutes of bidding.
The half-destroyed graffiti “The Balloon Girl”, by British street artist Banksy, one of his most famous works, whose self-destruction during its sale at auction in 2018 had caused a stir, was sold at Sotheby’s, London for almost €21.8m euros, a new record for a work by the British artist and three times the highest estimated selling price.
The sale price of the work, renamed “Love is in the Bin”, exceeded the record set last March by “Game Changer”, a work by Banksy in honour of the nursing staff during the pandemic, sold at Christie’s for 19.5 million euros for the benefit of the British public health service.
In the same auction room three years ago, those present shuddered when, seconds after the sale of “The Balloon Girl” for £1.042.000, a document shredder hidden under the canvas’s frame destroyed the lower half showing a little girl holding a red heart shaped balloon. At the end of the happening, what was left of the canvas was just the balloon on a white background.
“Some people believe it was not shredded. It was. Some people believe that the auction house participated in this. It did not”, the artist had said on Instagram at the time.
With this happening, which caused a stir in art circles, the mysterious street artist wanted to denounce the “Commodification” of the art market.
Sotheby’s then spoke of the most spectacular artistic happening of the 21st century, placing it in the “Legacy of anti-establishment art that began with the Dada movement and Marcel Duchamp”.
Even before that auction, the “The Balloon Girl” graffiti stenciled on a wall on the South Bank of London in 2002 was considered Britain’s favourite work of art.
“When The Balloon Girl self-destructed in our auction room, Banksy caused a global sensation that has since become a cultural phenomenon,” said Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s Head of Contemporary and Modern Art. He added that “During that memorable night, Banksy did not destroy a piece of art by shredding it, but on the contrary created one,”. Since then, Banksy’s works have fetched record prices at auctions.