Banksy’s rigged art frame was supposed to shred the whole thing

In the connected future will anyone truly own any thing? Banksy’s artworld shocker performance piece, earlier this month, when a canvas of his went under the hammer at Sothebys in London, suggests not. Immediately the Girl with Balloon canvas sold — for a cool ~$1.1M (£860,000) — it proceeded to self-destruct, via a shredder built into […]

In the connected future will anyone truly own any thing? Banksy’s artworld shocker performance piece, earlier this month, when a canvas of his went under the hammer at Sothebys in London, suggests not.

Immediately the Girl with Balloon canvas sold — for a cool ~$1.1M (£860,000) — it proceeded to self-destruct, via a shredder built into the frame, leaving a roomful of designer glasses paired with a lot of shock and awe, before facial muscles twisted afresh as new calculations kicked in.

As we reported at the time, the anonymous artist had spent years planning this particular prank. Yet the stunt immediately inflated the value of the canvas — some suggested by as much as 50% — despite the work itself being half shredded, with just a heart-shaped balloon left in clear view.

The damaged canvas even instantly got a new title: Love Is in the Bin.

Thereby undermining what might otherwise be interpreted as a grand Banksy gesture critiquing the acquisitive, money-loving bent of the art world. After all, street art is his big thing.

However it turns out that the shredder malfunctioned. And had in fact been intended to send the whole canvas into the bin the second after it sold.

Or, at least, so the prankster says — via a ‘director’s cut’ video posted to his YouTube channel yesterday (and given the title: ‘Shred the love’, which is presumably what he wanted the resulting frame-sans-canvas to be called).

“In rehearsals it worked every time…” runs a caption towards the end of the video, before footage of a complete shredding is shown…

The video also appears shows how the canvas was triggered to get to work cutting.

After the hammer goes down the video cuts to a close-up shot of a pair of man’s hands pressing a button on a box with a blinking red LED — presumably sending a wireless signal to shreddy to get to work…

The suggestion, also from the video (which appears to show close up shots of some of the reactions of people in the room watching the shredding taking place in real time), is that the man — possibly Banksy himself — attended the auction in person and waited for the exact moment to manually trigger the self-destruct mechanism.

There are certainly lots of low power, short range radio technologies that could have been used for such a trigger scenario. Although the artwork itself was apparently gifted to its previous owner by Banksy all the way back in 2006. So the built-in shredder, batteries and radio seemingly had to sit waiting for their one-time public use for 12 years. Unless, well, Banksy snuck into the friend’s house to swap out batteries periodically.

Whatever the exact workings of the mechanism underpinning the stunt, the act is of course the point.

It’s almost as if Banksy is trying to warn us that technology is eroding ownership, concentrating power and shifting agents of control.

Banksy piece immediately shreds itself after being sold for $1.25M

In what might be the most ridiculous stunt ever pulled in the art world, a Banksy piece has, in a sense, self-destructed. Right in front of an audience of would-be buyers. A framed canvas version of Banksy’s Girl with Balloon was set to be auctioned at Sothebys in London. As the auction came to a […]

In what might be the most ridiculous stunt ever pulled in the art world, a Banksy piece has, in a sense, self-destructed. Right in front of an audience of would-be buyers.

A framed canvas version of Banksy’s Girl with Balloon was set to be auctioned at Sothebys in London. As the auction came to a close with a final bid of £953,829 (a little over $1.25 million), the print’s frame began… beeping. Then, whirring. Seconds later, the canvas slid through the bottom of the frame, now almost entirely shredded.

The anonymous artist has long expressed a dislike of art galleries reselling their works, down to creating a piece featuring an audience of bidders battling over a print that reads, simply, “I can’t believe you morons actually buy this shit”. This seems to be Banksy’s latest way of expressing their discontent.

Of course, it’s easy to argue that the whole thing makes the piece even more desirable, because, well… art. If people with mountains of cash are buying art to have a ridiculously rare conversation piece that they hope others recognize, this one just rocketed up the list. It’s now that piece. Or technically those pieces, I guess.

Curiously, the canvas didn’t make it all the way through the shredder — did it jam, or was that intentional? By leaving about 1/3 of the print in the frame, the shredded bits are left attached and dangling… thus preventing them from splitting the pile of shreds into 50 more auctions with everyone vying for a slice.

So how did it all work? Writer Zoe Smith shared a video on Twitter this morning that she notes appeared briefly on Banksy’s Instagram before disappearing (Update: it’s now back up! See below). It shows what appears to be the inside of the frame (which, in hindsight, seems comically large), shredder and all:

Update — here’s the video, as reposted by Banksy:

In the same video, it’s claimed that this was all put in process “a few years ago”. It appears that the “shredder” is a series of X-acto style blades which the canvas was raked over.

Meanwhile, a news post on Artsy suggests that the shred could’ve been triggered by someone in the audience with “a device in his hand”.

But what about power? In a video of the piece being removed post-shreddage, there doesn’t seem to be any wires behind the frame, nor anything plugged in. The piece itself is detailed as having been given to its previous owner by Banksy in 2006. Both the speakers in the frame and the motors of the shredder would require a power source. Keeping a battery ready and waiting for 12 years seems… unlikely.

The Sotheby’s listing for the piece notes that it was “Authenticated by Pest Control”. Pest Control is Banksy’s “handling service”, which will go out to verify supposed Banksy pieces to try to make sure no one drops a pile of cash on a one-of-a-kind Borksy. Perhaps part of the verification process involved double checking everything within the frame.

Banksy posted a too-perfect still of the shred in process, with the caption “Going, going, gone…”

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Going, going, gone…

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(Top image left via Sothebys; Top image right via Banksy on Instagram)