Non-fiction editor Abbie Kellett gives her take on the Banksy debacle that has taken place over the past week.
Bristol-born artist Banksy is known for his often-controversial approach to art, however, he recently pulled off one of the most daring stunts in art history.
On Friday night, Sotheby’s in London saw one of Bansky’s most famous pieces, ‘Girl with Balloon’, be sold at auction for just over £1m. As soon as the gavel went down, the picture began to self-destruct through a shredder fitted at the bottom of the frame.
Banksy posted a picture of the dramatic scene to his Instagram page with the caption ‘Going, going, gone…’, capturing the stunned faces of those at the auction. He later posted a video showing how he had pulled off the stunt, which he revealed had been years in the making.
It is thought that the stunt was intended by Banksy to mock the soaring value art can reach at auction, yet, it has ironically been predicted that the half-shredded picture will now reach double the value it was originally sold for. The unforgettable stunt has attracted massive media attention and co-founder of MyArtBroker Joey Syer stated that for its place in art history, the estimated value would now likely be £2m. The buyer was a phone bidder and Sotheby’s have not revealed their identity or whether they still have to pay for the painting.
Whilst this may be one of his boldest moves yet, Banksy is no stranger to public controversy. Many of his works are rooted in satirising modern society through politically motivated art or public displays. For example, in 2004, the Notting Hill Carnival saw the distribution of £10 notes modified by Banksy to represent the face of Princess Diana where the Queen should have been. These ‘Di Faced Tenners’ were attempted to be used as legal tender in local shops on the day, however, over a decade on and authentic Di Faced Tenners can now reach more than £20,000 at auction.
Banksy’s identity has never been officially confirmed, however, a particular man in the auction room at Sotheby’s has caught people’s attention. Robin Gunningham has previously been rumoured to be the notorious artist, and now a very similar looking curly-haired man wearing glasses has been captured in a video inside Sotheby’s taking a photo from the same angle as that of the picture on Banksy’s Instagram. The speculation about Gunningham being the mastermind behind Banksy has been going on for over a decade now, and many believe the identity of the mystery artist has finally been revealed.
Anyhow, the anonymity of the world-famous artist is a point of discord with many protesting attempts to de-mask him. When he was selected by Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people, Banksy chose to submit a photo of himself with a bag over his head. Starting with graffiti that took on the stencil approach he practices now, to the prank-like performances he uses to capture the attention of the world, like when he targeted the Louvre and successfully installed an image of the Mona Lisa with a smiley face, he clearly has one of the most distinctive styles and personalities out there. Banksy will make himself known to the world if he wants to, but for now, his art is made all the more poignant by his elusive anonymity.