The modern art world is filled with pranks and pranksters, the clowns who have decided that play counts for art. Brattish artists foist a range of projects and conceptual themes upon art galleries who, foolishly, see emperors decked in the finest wear. They refuse to consider that the wear is absent, an expensive mirage that tells to an old tale of the imperial ruler without clothes.
This is a world, of transaction, appearance and display, based on conceit and seduction, the toying by the super star artist of the necessarily gullible, and the acceptance on their part they are bearing witness to the exceptional. When Banksy’s Girl with Balloon was shredded at Sotheby’s (a sort of art styled seppuku), it was subsequently, and all too quickly, transformed into Love is in the Bin. Technicians in the room did not seem too fussed by the occurrence, and diligently went about their business of retouching the new piece for the market amidst nervous laughter and much tittering. Banksy’s own company Pest Control granted the work a new certificate. Another prank had been played.
The anonymous woman who had initially bid for the previous painting at the point of shredding found herself in raptures, but had to play along as initially shocked. (She may well have been, but this posture seemed distinctly contrived.) The £1,042,000 was well spent, thank you very much. “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,” came the observation from the buyer.
Marketing executive Stephanie Fielding feels that Sotheby’s would have been in on it. “One would hope in an age of security consciousness they would have known that such a contraption was inside the artwork.” Sotheby’s did little to dispel this notion, boasting that the new work had been “created in our salesroom”, and was “the first work in history ever created during a live auction.” Its employees also added to the tattle, a layering of playfulness. “I don’t think we knew,” came the guarded receptionist, “but we’re not allowed to say anymore.”
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