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Banksy’s Greatest Prank

By Celina Simmons

On Friday, Oct. 5, one of the British street artist Banksy’s most notable pieces was banksyauctioned off at Sotheby’s in London for a hefty $1.4 million. “Girl With Balloon” portrayed a young girl reaching for a heart-shaped balloon in spray paint on canvas. Made in 2006, it was signed by the artist himself. Almost immediately after the hammer hit on the final price, the piece self-destructed. Most of it was shredded into small strips by a remote-controlled, battery-powered shredder that was built into the frame.

“Girl With Balloon” was the last to be sold at Sotheby’s “Frieze Week” contemporary art sale for the evening. The art was sold for three times the estimated price after competition between two bidders. There is speculation now that the shredding has caused Banksy’s piece to be worth twice as much.

After the incident, Banksy put out two posts on his Instagram page. The first was a screenshot of his shredded painting next to shocked observers with the caption “Going, going, gone…” The second post consisted of video clips and text that said, “A few years ago I secretly built a shredder into a painting in case it was ever put up for auction…” The video clips included shots of someone building the shredder into the painting frame and shots of the incident occurring at the auction. He posted this with a quote from Picasso stating, “The urge to destroy is also a creative urge.”

Some have gone as far to say that the Sotheby staff played a role in this prank, but they claimed to have been “Banksy’ed” themselves.

It is unknown entirely what this demolition is representing, but many suggest it is Banksy’s mockery of what people’s values are today. One of the Dragons’ Den multimillionaire investors, Deborah Meadon, described Banksy as “officially the coolest, most poignant person on Earth.” “Of course it’s a publicity stunt,” she said, “but it’s publicising the sheer insanity of where we place our values.”
But could it go even deeper than that?

The young girl portrayed in the painting is perceived as a representation of innocence and hope. The balloon drifting away from the girl represents the image of hope disappearing. With that in mind, could there be more behind the meaning of this self-destruction?

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