Sotheby’s said today that Banksy’s Girl with Balloon, which famously shredded itself when it came up for sale at the auction house in London last week, has officially been sold to an unnamed buyer. But, according to the auction house, the partially shredded piece is actually a new work—Love is in the Bin (2018)—and that piece is the one that will be added to the buyer’s collection. (Pest Control, which a news release from the auction house identifies as “Banksy’s authentication body,” has reportedly given a certificate to the new work.)
Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s head of contemporary art, Europe, said in a statement, “Banksy didn’t destroy an artwork in the auction, he created one.” He called the destruction of Girl with Balloon a “surprise” and said that Love is in the Bin is “the first artwork in history to have been created live during an auction.”
Banksy’s Girl with Balloon came up for auction this past Friday in the British capital. As it sold for $1.4 million it was shredded by remote control by a person in the salesroom. The event has touched off a debate about whether the destruction was staged, and whether the auction house was involved in the prank. Steven Lazarides, Banksy’s longtime agent, told ARTnews last week that the artist likely hadn’t cooperated with Sotheby’s. “He’s not going to collude with an institution,” Lazarides said.
The critical response to the sale of the work has been mixed. Writing in the New Yorker, Andrea K. Scott called the self-destructing artwork an “empty gesture,” while Ben Davis penned an Artnet News essay that bore the headline “Can We Just Admit That Banksy’s Art-Shredding Stunt Is Actually Really Good?”
Sotheby’s plans to show Love is in the Bin at its London galleries on October 13 and 14. Its release announcing the news ended with the following: “Banksy has a history with pranking art establishments, having previously pulled stunts in the Louvre, Tate Britain, the British Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Natural History Museum. Sotheby’s now joins that long and distinguished list.”