Never one to do things by halves, Banksy has once again shocked the art world. As the hammer fell on a framed version of his famous “Girl with balloon” piece, onlookers were shocked as it started to shred itself. Sotheby’s staff stood stunned as a gasp went through the audience and half the painting emerged from the bottom in slices. Soon after some newspapers reported that Banksy himself may have been present. Banksy, who prefers to remain anonymous, has famously shunned being photographed (unlike many other famous artists) but is it possible that in his drive to shock he has outed himself once and for all?
Girl With Balloon
Originally a stencilled piece of spray painted art, the Girl With Balloon piece first appeared on a wall in London’s West Bank in 2002. The art world has sought to understand what the artist was trying to say with the painting, which simply shows a young girl reaching out and a red, heart shaped, balloon floating away, since it first appeared. Some believe it to be a message of hope, that we should reach for our dreams. Others feel that it is a far more cynical image, that the girl has lost the balloon and with it her innocence. As has become the norm, the artist himself has said nothing on the subject.
Banksy The Phenomena
Banksy first appeared on the graffiti scene in the 1990s as part of Bristol’s DryBreadZ Crew. He later broke away and his art started to appear in London. As his fame rose so too did speculation over his identity. The most commonly believed suspects are Robert Banks and Robin Gunningham. Girl With Balloon sold for £1.04 million on the 6th October 2018 but in previous publicity stunts he has sold his art for as little as $60 a piece on the streets of New York. Celebrities are far from immune to his charms and Christina Aguilera owns three pictures of his including one that shows Queen Victoria in a sex act with another woman.
The Stunt And The Reveal
Soon after the shocking scenes at the auction house, Banksy released a video on Instagram. In the short film he showed the shredding from images captured at the scene, along with another video showing how he made the special frame quite some time before. The Daily Mail reported soon after, that other videos made at Sotheby’s clearly show someone capturing exactly the images that Banksy later posted. The person holding that phone looked exactly like Robin Gunningham. Gunningham has been sighted near many Banksy pieces and his travels exactly match those of the reclusive artist. Both Gunningham and his alter ego have denied their connection on several occasions but it seems that one simple mistake by the artist has revealed these denials to be false; if the Daily Mail are to be believed.
Who Will Pay For The Damage?
Sotheby’s own website makes it clear that the seller is responsible for insuring their artwork. Something as simple as the insurance on a picture (even one involved in such an amazing stunt) is very straightforward compared to some of the amazing things that stars have insured in the past. There was, for example, Holly Madison’s million dollar breasts and Abbott and Costello taking out a policy in case anyone died of laughter watching them. The only possible issues will be over whether or not the sale will complete. The identity of the buyer has remained hidden and it is unclear if the sale is going ahead. What really muddies the water is that, now that it has been damaged by Banksy himself, it may be worth twice as much as they buyer agreed to pay for it.
Whether Banksy is Robin Gunningham, Robert Banks or even a whole crew of artists working together, what is clear is that he is a master of surprise. Rather than being offended by the prank the art world are ablaze with gushing praise for this bold new step. Has Banksy actually made two missteps this weekend: revealing his true identity and having his attempt to stick two fingers up at the art establishment ending up in him becoming an even bigger part of the system he sought to insult?