In 2018 Banksy left the art world reeling after shredding a spray paint and acrylic on canvas version of Girl with Balloon (2006) just moments after it sold for a record price for the artist – £1.04 million (with fees). The partially shredded work is returning to auction this October.
Girl with Balloon first appeared in 2002 as a series of stencil murals by Banksy, the first of which emerged in East London. The mural shows a young girl reaching up to a red heart-shaped balloon that is floating away. Whilst many versions of the stencil no longer exist in public spaces, one can be seen on Waterloo Bridge. It has become one of the most iconic images created by Banksy, and has been repurposed for numerous social campaigns. A limited edition print of the work, Balloon Girl – Colour AP (Purple), sold at Christie’s in September 2020 for £791,250, which was the highest bidding price for a Banksy print and the most expensive print ever sold in an online auction.
Following the sale of the canvas version in 2018, Banksy uploaded a video of the destruction to Instagram, but later deleted the post. The anonymous artist also added that, “some people think it didn’t really shred. It did. Some people think the auction house was in on it, they weren’t.” Despite this, there were rumours at the time that Sotheby’s was in on the act, with Alex Branczik, Chairman of Modern and Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s, claiming that he was certainly not “in on the ruse”.
Banksy was quick to rename the work Love is in the Bin, and this unique object will now be offered for sale at Sotheby’s for a staggering pre-sale estimate of £4 to £6 million, considerably more than the 2018 pre-sale estimate of £200,000-300,000. At the time of its self-destruction, Branczik announced, “it appears we just got Banksy-ed”, and continued that “you could argue that the work is now more valuable”. This certainly appears to be the case, given the substantial increase in auction estimate.
Of the sale of the partly shredded work, Branczik has commented that it is the “ultimate Banksy artwork and a true icon of recent history”, and further that, “Love is in the Bin was born of the most spectacular artistic happening of the 21st century [as] when ‘Girl with Balloon’ ‘self-destructed’ in our saleroom, Banksy sparked a global sensation that has since become a cultural phenomenon.”
Sotheby’s has described Love is in the Bin as “the most famous artwork of the 21st century”. It will go under the hammer on 14 October this year in the Contemporary Evening Sale at Sotheby’s. Prior to this, it will be on public display in London, Hong Kong, Taipei and New York.