Banksy is known for his political artistic statements, his elusive persona, and now for breaking auction records. Georgia Golding gives her thoughts on Banksy’s latest selling artwork, as well as his significance in the world of contemporary art.
With loud political sentiments and intriguing moral messages, Banksy’s artwork evidently encourages a thoughtful response from its viewers. The pseudonymous street artist, who began his career in the 1990s, is renowned for a wide range of distinctive and striking art pieces.
But perhaps one of his most shocking works came in 2018, when his famous painting “Girl with Balloon” self-destructed during a Sotheby’s auction in London. After being sold under the hammer, the canvas slipped out of its frame and passed into a hidden shredder, which cut through half of the image. This incident disassembled the message of hope and endearment that the original painting was comprised of, reducing it, quite literally, to debris. Attendees of the auction were left startled, and the intervention unsurprisingly made numerous headlines. Shedding light on the subject, Banksy admitted (via Instagram) his long-term intent to destruct the artwork if it was ever put up for auction and, as a result of the dismantling, “Girl with Balloon” was reborn as “Love is in the Bin”.
The renamed artwork “Love is in the Bin” has struck the news again in recent weeks, selling for a record £18.5 million at an auction in London. The stunt that led to the formation of “Love is in the Bin” (a title which abruptly communicates a loss of essence and love) was quite clearly a move against capitalism, but does the price tag now associated with the piece undermine Banksy’s stance against the economic and political system he so often sets himself in opposition to?
The painting’s worth comes from its complete individuality, becoming the first artwork to have been produced during a live auction, but its extortionate price does seem to synergise with the ways of capitalism: something that certainly goes against the street artist’s principles.
However, Banksy maintains that his objective was to shred the canvas completely, but a malfunction of the self-destruct mechanism impeded on this. With that in mind, we can still see “Love is in the Bin” as a direct representation of the artist’s attitude towards the selling of art; it suggests that the love, sentiment, and truth in artwork is lost and overshadowed by big-budget art dealings, just as the face of the girl in the image is overshadowed by the frame. It is a truly unique piece of work, which catches the eye through its irony and unusualness. Though the price may seem inordinate to some, the guile Banksy showed in the creation of the piece represents the kind of dauntlessness that many people must admire. This, it could be said, is what makes it valuable.
Ultimately, it cannot be denied that Banksy is an inspiring icon of modern art; his ability to construct meaning in enigmatic images, with only a rare use of text, is highly clever and commendable. This is evidently not the first time his artwork has been the topic of hot discussion, and it will surely not be the last. The way it provokes us to think, feel, and believe is nothing short of compelling.