“We have been Banksy-ed” declared art experts at Sotheby’s after the original Girl with Balloon art-work was shredded just seconds after the hammer came down at record price of over £1 million pounds*. It was then re-certified and re-titled by Pest Control, Banksy’s authentication body, as Love is in the Bin, 2018. This will now be marked as a key moment in the history of art, with some commentators even comparing it in status to Marcel Duchamp’s famous readymade sculpture Fountain, 1917.
What this moment really attests to is the tension between monetary value and art. Banksy is both critiquing and at the same time profiting from the commodity fetishism that engulfs the art collector market.
Social theorist Will Davies aptly tweeted that ‘Banksy clearly understands capitalism’, and further remarked in classical Marxist terms that while the ‘use value’ of Banksy’s art was shredded it led to the increase in ‘exchange value’ as art dealers claimed it was now worth more than £2m. In another sense Marx’s ‘labour theory of value’ could also be interpreted to be at play here, as it explains the pivotal role of the artist Banksy; in devising, constructing and remotely activating the frames built-in shredder. Thus, transforming the art-work itself, coupling live performance art while adding social meaning to the artistic object itself at an auction.
In Sotheby’s press release the buyer commented, “When the hammer came down last week and the work was shredded, I was at first shocked, but gradually I began to realise that I would end up with my own piece of art history.”** Here the buyer has realised that the commodity they have actually bought is ‘art history’ itself!
*Once Sotheby’s fees are taken into account.
Marx, K. (1993) Grundrisse der Kritik der Politischen Ökonomie (Fundamentals of Political Economy Criticism), Penguin: London