Banksy’s Shredding Artwork Is Auctioned for $25.4 Million at Sotheby’s

LONDON — The Banksy painting that sensationally self-destructed three years ago after selling for $1.4 million at auction was resold by Sotheby’s Thursday for 18.6 million pounds, or $25.4 million, a record for the artist.

The work, retitled by Banksy “Love Is in the Bin,” had been estimated to sell for $5.5 million to $8.2 million.

After competition from a total of nine bidders, it was bought by a client on a telephone for a price that more than doubled Banksy’s previous auction record of $12.1 million, given for his painting “Devolved Parliament,” again at Sotheby’s, in 2019.

The auction was the centerpiece of Sotheby’s “Frieze Week” auction of contemporary art.

“I expected it would make £20 million,” said Acoris Andipa, a London-based dealer who specializes in Banksy’s paintings and prints. “It’s such an infamous work. Together with Leonardo’s ‘Salvator Mundi,’ it’s been the world’s most talked-about artwork of the last two or three years.”

The artwork, which started as a spray-painted canvas from 2006 called “Girl With Balloon,” had been the last lot of Sotheby’s equivalent “Frieze Week” sale in October 2018. Immediately after being bought in a telephone bid, for $1.4 million, an alarm went off in the salesroom. Sotheby’s staffers and the audience at the auction gasped as the painting slid through its elaborate gold frame and shredded, then jammed halfway through. It was carried out via a remote-controlled mechanism hidden in the frame. Sotheby’s declared afterward that it had been “Banksy-ed.”

Devised by Banksy to subvert the excesses of the art trade, according to his Instagram posts, the stunt created what experts correctly predicted would become a highly valuable work of performance art.

“Love Is in the Bin,” with its shredded lower half dangling under the frame, was displayed behind a protective glass screen at Sotheby’s. It had been offered for sale by an unidentified European collector. It was exhibited for 11 months next to revered old masters at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart in Germany in 2019-20. During that period, the Staatsgalerie said, it attracted 180,000 visitors, about double its usual attendance.

Leading up to the sale, the artwork, which the auctioneer Oliver Barker, chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, termed “this great iconic Banksy,” had been exhibited old master-style in a sepulchrally lit gallery of its own, not unlike the darkened chamber in which Christie’s had exhibited the $450.3 million “Salvator Mundi” in New York in 2017.

“I can’t tell you how terrified I am to bring this hammer down,” Barker said after taking the final bid of $25.4 million. He had been the auctioneer three years earlier on the night of Banksy’s audacious, semi-successful stunt.

But this time it was just an auction record that was shredded.

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