Banksy Shreds “Girl with a Balloon” in a Giant and Awesome FU to the Art World
By now, we all know Banksy pulled, arguably, the greatest stunt the fine art world has ever seen.
To catch you up, Banksy installed a shredder inside the frame of one of his most iconic pieces of art, Girl with a Balloon. In his own words: “In case it ever went up for auction”. Well, it did go up for auction at Sotheby’s in London. As soon as the gavel fell, (at a record $1.4M sale price) the painting (remote control detonated) started beeping and promptly shredded the bottom half of the painting. While the original plan, as detailed in Banksy’s own behind the scenes video, was to completely shred the entire canvas, only the bottom half was destroyed. In the end, he destroyed nothing, and simultaneously created something new and even more valuable. The buyer says she will complete the transaction and keep the work. Of course she will; it’s worth twice what she paid. It’s no longer just a painting. This image is now a part of high-art history and will be forever. She owns the event—even though the artist literally hates her and everyone else in the room at Sotheby’s that fine day.
Maybe you think this is all about PR and self-promotion. Let me assure you (IMHO), this was nothing more than a giant FU to the fine art world. Banksy is on record saying: “These morons will buy anything”.
Shred the Love. The Director's Cut
At WUDN, our appreciation for Banksy goes back years. It’s a simple recreation of the original “Girl with a Balloon” painted (graffitied) of the side of a dirty wall in the neighborhood of Bristol England. We took some Mahogany and laser engraved this beautiful image on the back of a phone case:
“I have no interest in ever coming out,” he has said. “I figure there are enough self-opinionated assholes trying to get their ugly little faces in front of you as it is.” Still, he posts news clips on his Web site, alongside video footage of successful stunts. He wants us to 'know', without the applause or a pat on the back. Banksy makes it clear how badly everyone else has really sold out. All of them.
Still anonymous: in 2010 Time magazine selected the British artist—graffiti master, painter, activist, filmmaker and provocateur—for its list of the worlds’ 100 most influential people, he joined the company of Barack Obama, Steve Jobs and Lady Gaga. Of course, he provided a pic with a paper bag (recyclable, naturally) over his head. In my view, he has done more than any of them to change the culture (not just in the US or the UK) and spark a global discussion of what it means to be speak up against the inherent unfairness that has crept into our society and basic economics of capitalism. He prods the popular conscience. Give the man a blank surface and behold the anti-authoritarianism, but without the anger; more thought provoking and sly.
Banksy’s work isn’t designed for them, it’s designed for us.
Whoever he is, (and oh, don’t we so badly want to know) he delights in the inconsistencies of his image.
“The art world is the biggest joke going,” he has said. “It’s a rest home for the overprivileged, the pretentious, and the weak.”
In spite of his clear animosity towards the traditional art world, he's created plenty of works on canvas and paper, perfectly suitable for hanging in a gallery or above a couch. He maintains a gallerist in London, Steve Lazarides, to authenticate his work for auction, and thereby delivering his tacit approval.
As soon as I wrote that paragraph – plagiarized from reliable sources I found this deep inside Banksy’s website:
Send all questions, complaints and threats to email@example.com.
Banksy is NOT on Facebook, Twitter or represented by Steve Lazarides or any other commercial gallery.
I am not sure why I find that so funny.
Ralph Taylor, a specialist in the Sotheby’s contemporary-art department, said of Banksy, “He is the quickest-growing artist anyone has ever seen of all time.” Banksy responded to the Sotheby’s sale by posting a painting on his Web site. It featured an auctioneer presiding over a crowd of rapt bidders, with the caption:
“I can’t believe you morons actually buy this shit.”
Pleasing crowds, not critics, however, remains his obvious and stated aim. “The last time I did a show,” he said, before an LA opening, “I thought I’d got a four-star review, then I realized they said, ‘This is absolute ****.’ ” He explained: “Hollywood is a town where they honor their heroes by writing their names on the pavement to be walked on by fat people and peed on by dogs. It seemed like a great place to come and be ambitious.”
Elephants & Movie Stars
True to his word, the Fall 2007 show in LA is still one of the greatest displays of real art and real irony. The warehouse manager where the exhibition was ultimately held says this about his experience: Unangst recalled, “Some people I work with called me up and said, ‘Can they come and look at your warehouse?’ We set up a meeting in the middle of the night. Banksy rolls up in an S.U.V. and looks around. He asked me if I had any problems with him bringing in a live elephant, and I said, ‘No, it’s cool.’ ” “I thought it was going to be a quaint little art show.”
The exhibition, titled “Barely Legal.” In a warehouse near downtown LA off the I-10 is not easy to find. Still, Keanu Reeves and Jude Law were at a V.I.P. preview the night before, as was Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, who bought multiple pieces. “These days, everyone is trying to be famous, but he has anonymity,” Pitt told reporters. “I think that’s great.” Clearly, irony is lost on the famous.
By the next day Los Angeles’s animal-rights groups were screaming.
Banksy was displaying an eight-thousand-pound elephant named Tai, whose hide he had painted red and decorated with gold fleurs-de-lis, to match the wallpaper in the constructed warehouse parlor. (The elephant in the room, a handout proclaimed, was global poverty.) The activists said the paint was toxic. Of course, he did. Authorities ordered the paint to be washed off.
That's my kind of artist.
You might think Banksy would hate a phone case made from his art. Maybe he would hate it. Maybe he would appreciate his art being used on an object we all hold so dear. Either way, I took my inspiration from Banksy himself. Behold, my personal favorite:
We have a new model supporting the just announced iPhone Xs. We will add the Xr and Xs Max soon. Check out our post on the newest iPhones for updates.
About the Author
Cameron Christian Owner, President-CEO, WUDN. After 25 Years in the corporate world, I am creating my own destiny. I bought the business so we can continue delighting our customers with real wood products that are beautiful and functional. Follow us on Instagram, tweet to @cechrist or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.