Famed anonymous street artist Banksy has sold a self-destructing artwork for $25.4 million on Thursday. The piece is well known for shredding itself into pieces immediately after being sold for $1.4 million at an auction three years ago. The $25.4 million sale is a new record for the artist, who is a favorite among celebrity collectors.
Banksy, who has been active since the 1990s, is renowned for his satirical street art and subversive epigrams which combine dark humor with graffiti. His works of political and social commentary have been featured on streets, walls, and bridges throughout the world.
The piece, titled “Love is in the Bin,” was put up for sale by Sotheby’s in London, with an exceptionally high presale estimate between $5.5 million to $8.2 million dollars, which still turned out to be an undervaluation, as the piece eventually sold for three times its estimate.
The work was presented as a partially shredded canvas contained in a frame, with a spray-painted image of a young child with her arm outstretched towards a heart-shaped red balloon.
The piece was originally titled “Girl With Balloon,” when it sold for the first time in October 2018. The moment an anonymous European buyer closed the auction with the winning bid a hidden shredder installed in the frame by Banksy automatically slashed the piece, leaving one-half of the work dangling from the bottom of the frame.
Sotheby’s billed the transformed work as “the ultimate Banksy artwork.”
The image at the center of the work, “Girl With Balloon,” is a mainstay in Banksy’s iconography, and was first stenciled on a wall in east London. The image has become one of Banksy’s most recognizable motifs.
The same imagery from Banksy’s self-destructing artwork appeared on the artist’s refugee rescue vessel
The famous image was even repurposed last year for a rescue boat the artists purchased for migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean. The image was modified so that the girl is reaching for a lifesaving floatation ring instead of a balloon.
The vessel, named Louise Michel, after a French feminist anarchist, set off in secrecy on August of last year from Spain, and made its way to the central Mediterranean operating with the mission of rescuing migrants and refugees trying to cross into Europe from North Africa.
Banksy has been moved by the plight of thousands of refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean seeking asylum in Western Europe.
His intervention follows a plethora of reports by NGO’s who accuse European governments of actively pursuing a policy of pushbacks without allowing legal procedures for each asylum application to be processed.
In June of 2020, the UN Refugee Agency urged Greece to investigate multiple reports of pushbacks by Greek authorities at the country’s sea and land borders, possibly returning migrants and asylum seekers to Turkey after they had reached Greek territory or territorial waters.
Greece has the legitimate right to control its borders and manage irregular migration while respecting international human rights and refugee protection standards. Controls and practices must guarantee the rights of asylum seekers and they should not be turned away at Greece’s borders, the UN Refugee Agency said.