LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) – A partially tattered canvas of one of Banksy’s most famous works sold for £ 18.58 million ($ 25.4 million) Thursday in London, a new record for the British artist three years after the purchase of the artwork for a fraction of that price.
The artwork – now called “Love is in the Bin” – was sold for nearly £ 1.1 million at the same Sotheby’s auction house in October 2018, before dramatically going through a paper shredder hidden in the large Victorian frame a few moments later .
The surreal prank was staged by the elusive and disrespectful Banksy, whose identity is said to be known only to a handful of friends, and caused a stir around the world.
The auction on Thursday evening, in which nine bidders fought for around 10 minutes for the work formerly known as “Girl With Balloon”, surpassed the previous record of 16.75 million pounds that Banksy had set in March.
The bids for “Love is in the Bin” rose rapidly from the starting price of £ 2.5 million, with auctioneer Oliver Barker enjoying the drama.
“I can’t tell you how scared I’m going to bring down this hammer,” he said when the final bid went unchallenged.
The plant was reportedly sold to a private investor. The seventh lot in a wide range of contemporary art had an estimated retail price of £ 4 million to £ 6 million.
“It has been almost three years since one of the most brilliant moments in performance art of this century made auction history,” said Alex Branczik from Sotheby’s after the record run. “Banksy is no stranger to making headlines, and this latest chapter in his story has captured the imagination around the world – we can only guess what might be next.”
The 2018 stunt, which made fun of the traditionally staid world of visual arts, is typical of the graffiti artist’s disruptive style that has been evident since his first appearances on the streets of Bristol, southwest England in the 1980s.
It was the latest in a long history of unpredictable moves for the provocative guerrilla artist whose work has appeared across the UK and around the world.
The partially tattered canvas, which was bought by an unnamed European woman in 2018 and exhibited in a museum in Germany for a month in 2019, shows a small child reaching for a heart-shaped red balloon.
The original, which first appeared on a wall in east London, has been endlessly reproduced in prints and online and appropriated by some of the world’s best-known brands. It was recognized in the British press as one of the most important works of art of the early 21st century.
Banksy’s latest work has appeared in several British coastal towns this summer, with the country’s most famous street performer confirming his creations in an Instagram video titled “A Great British Spraycation”.
It showed him on a summer road trip in a shabby motorhome with spray cans in a cool box.
In recent years he has drawn the attention of the contemporary art world with his social comments and concerns – migrants, opposition to Brexit, denouncing Islamist radicals – while still stirring up the excitement of the capitalized art markets.
In March, the work that broke its previous sales price record honored caregivers during the coronavirus pandemic, with the proceeds donated to the state’s National Health Service (NHS). The painting “Game Changer” was sold to an unnamed buyer for £ 14.4 million plus costs after heavy bids at Christie’s auction house in London.
Contemporary art auctions have hit an all-time high last year, boosted by online sales and the arrival of digital art in the form of “NFTs,” according to an annual Artprice report on Monday.