Immediately after being auctioned off for $1.4 million, art prankster Banksy’s Girl with Balloon shredded itself in front of a shocked auction audience at Sotheby’s in London.
Banksy revealed on their Instagram account that the act was planned years in advance through placement of a remote-controlled mechanism on the back of the canvas. The writing accompanying the video states that “a few years ago [Banksy] secretly built a shredder into a painting in case it was ever put up for auction.”
The situation is unprecedented with regards to how the mystery buyer’s situation will proceed, as the shredding took place after the gavel struck and the bidder was confirmed as the buyer. The general rule regarding risk of loss at an auction states that risk lies with the seller until the sold item is physically possessed by the buyer, not when the agreement for purchase is confirmed. The buyer should therefore be able to cancel the purchase agreement if so desired.
Despite the flexibility the law allows, the buyer may have no incentive to cancel the purchase. Joey Syer, co-founder of MyArtBroker, a website that regularly deals in the sale of Banksy artwork, estimates that the shredded painting’s value has increased by over 50% as a result of the incident. The painting could be resold for as much as $2.6 million, multiplying the buyer’s return if they were to go through with the purchase and resell.
Sotheby’s has denied any involvement in or prior knowledge of the incident.
Merve Ciplak is an Entertainment Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2021).