A Banksy artwork that shredded itself at a previous auction has sold for a record £16m.
Love is in the Bin was what remained of the artist’s live destruction of his piece Girl with Balloon, which sold for £1m in 2018.
It went under the hammer at Sotheby’s in London on Thursday, selling for £16m – vastly over its £4-6m guide price.
Including a buyer’s premium, the purchaser paid £18.5m in total.
The sale, which saw nine bidders battle for around 10 minutes, beats the previous record of £16.8m set for Banksy in March.
After closing bidding. auctioneer Oliver Barker joked he was relieved that the artwork was “still there”.
‘A true icon’
Before opening the bidding, Mr Barker said that the painting became an “unexpected piece of performance art” when it shredded in the same auction room after being sold to a “private European investor” three years ago.
Opening bids at £2.5m, its price tag hit £10m within minutes as numerous offers were placed.
Bidding then gradually climbed to a record £15m as the race progressively narrowed down between fewer bidders.
There were a few tentative moments after bidder Nick Buckley Wood, representing a private investor, waited to see if anyone would outdo his client’s £16m offer.
A shake of the head from his rival finally indicated they were out of the running.
Mr Barker said: “At £16m ladies and gentlemen we are selling the Banksy at Sotheby’s.
“You were here for this fantastic moment.”
He then drew laughter from the audience after saying: “I can’t tell you how terrified I am to bring down this hammer.”
In keeping with his irreverent guerrilla style, Love is in the Bin saw Banksy poke fun at the art world.
Sotheby’s contemporary art chairman Alex Branczik said the stunt “did not so much destroy an artwork by shredding it, but instead created one”.
“Today, this piece is considered heir to a venerated legacy of anti-establishment art,” he added, labelling it as “the ultimate Banksy artwork and a true icon of recent art history”
Back in 2018, moments after the hammer fell at the auction, alarms sounded and the canvas dropped through a hidden shredder built into the bottom.
The unnamed European woman who bought the piece said: “At first I was shocked, but I realised I would end up with my own piece of art history.”
‘It is exceptional’
Former BBC arts editor Will Gompertz wrote at the time that he believed Love is in the Bin would go on to be seen as “one of the most significant artworks of the early 21st Century”.
“It is not a great painting that can be compared to a late Rembrandt, or a sculpture to sit alongside Michelangelo’s David, but in terms of conceptual art emanating from [Marcel] Duchamp’s Dadaist sensibility, it is exceptional,” he added.
“It was brilliant in both conception and execution.”
“What is Love is in the Bin?” he asked. “Is it a painting? Or, is it now a piece of conceptual art? Or should it be classified as a sculpture? Or is it rubbish?
“Who decides? Who knows? Duchamp would say it is up to you to decide.”
The piece had been on permanent loan to the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart museum in Germany since March 2019.