Banksy’s iconic Love Is In The Bin has just sold for £18,582,000 at auction, more than triple its high estimate. The iconic artwork sparked a fierce wave of bids, with nine bidders battling for over ten minutes. It marks almost exactly three years since Girl With A Balloon was shredded at a Sotheby’s evening sale – becoming Love Is In The Bin in the process.
No sooner had the artwork achieved its then record-breaking price (£860,000, or £1.04 million with premium) than it was turned into paper spaghetti and quickly ushered away by stewards, in a live stunt that baffled auction attendees. The moment went down in art history.
While Sotheby’s continues to deny any previous knowledge of the stunt, Banksy quickly took credit for it in an Instagram video (which suggested he had intended to totally rather than partially shred the work but that his machinery malfunctioned). The buyer decided to keep the art work after it was re-certified by Pest Control – a very wise decision, since the night captured the public imagination like no other art event in living memory. More than 30,000 press articles were written about the work’s metamorphosis and it sparked a flurry of copycat adverts, publicity stunts and memes. In art circles, the piece was hailed as the next step in a long line of anti-art that included Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (a urinal on a pedestal) and Robert Rauschenburg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing (which is exactly as the title suggests).
Since the auction (and, in part, due to the shredding), Banksy prices have risen sharply, with a once reticent art world beginning to embrace his work. Devolved Parliament, Show Me The Monet and Game Changer all commanded surprisingly high prices at auction and proved that big money buyers are now serious about Banksy.
With its unique historical relevance, Love Is In The Bin was always going to attract a lot of interest – and it was shown in Hong Kong, Taipei and New York before the auction to generate even more hype. Sotheby’s gave it a £4-6 million estimate but many believed that was too low before the auction even began, given the artist’s sales history over the last three years. The final price will inevitably impact the value of other Banksy pieces, which rise every time the artist achieves an auction record.
Despite his high prices, Banksy continues to remain anonymous, using some of his profits to fund social activism projects that have included the Louise Michel migrant rescue boat, shelters in Calais’s ‘Jungle’ refugee camp and ongoing projects on the West Bank.