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Banksy's painting

The painting ‘Girl with Red Balloon’ had just been sold for one million pounds when a built-in paper shredder destroyed half of Banksy’s artwork. Why would an artist do something like this? And what are the consequences for the ‘Banksy’ brand?
By Christine Dirkse

Quirijn van den Hoogen

Assistant professor of arts policy and arts sociology

Quirijn van den Hoogen calls Banksy’s actions an ‘amazing stunt’. ‘What he did is ridiculously brilliant. He wants to expose how ridiculous the financial side of art is while simultaneously being a part of it. It’s beautiful.’

‘What Banksy did has two sides to it. He is rebelling against the commercialisation in the art world, as well as the media hype around it. That’s why he chooses to remain anonymous. This action of his is aimed at this commercialisation. But this stunt also ensures he is a part of that commercialisation: he has created media attention. The focus is on him and on his art, which may only go up in value.’

The stunt itself isn’t even the most exciting part. Rather, it’s the timing of it that makes it exciting. ‘Deteriorating art is not a new concept. There have been exhibitions on the beauty of decay, using dying trees in art, for example. Rauschenberg’s Erased De Kooning Drawing is another example. But no artwork was ever destroyed after it had been sold. That’s what makes this so exciting.’

‘In terms of publicity, this has been a very successful stunt. We’ll just have to wait and see what the consequences are. The question remains whether the art world is prepared to pay extra for the work. I think some people might just be crazy enough to do it.’

Maarten Gijsenberg

Assistant professor of marketing

Banksy’s performance is perfectly in line with his reputation, says Maarten Gijsenberg. ‘Banksy has established himself as a critic of capitalism. He is rebelling against the large amounts of money that people pay for art based solely on the name of the artist.’

The simple silkscreen print made a million pounds. That is exactly what Banksy is rebelling against. ‘He is reinforcing his brand in two ways. First, he reinforces his status as a critic of capitalism and hypocrisy. At the same time, by destroying half the painting, he’s actually adding value to it.’

‘I can see the work hanging in a museum, shredded and all, perhaps accompanied by a video of said shredding. This artwork will probably be worth much more than a million pounds, and other Banksy works will go up in value as well. So Banksy has reinforced his brand as an artist.’

‘There are clearly several layers to this story. Because Banksy is anonymous, we don’t know his intentions or whether he realised the consequences of his actions beforehand. Did he really intend to make a statement against the large sums of money people pay for art? Did he not realise his actions would actually add value to his work? Or was this a marketing strategy to reinforce his brand? Maybe he was perfectly aware of the consequences. We just don’t know.’

Gertjan van den Hout

Lecturer of law

‘At first glance, this piece of art is what’s known as a nonconforming product’, says Gertjan van den Hout. ‘The buyer isn’t getting the product they paid for. The sale could be terminated.’ But it’s not that simple.

‘If we assume that the buyer wasn’t in on it and honestly thought they were buying a painting, the law is very clear. The buyer of the artwork thought they were buying a drawing of a girl with a balloon to hang on their wall. But immediately after the sale, the painting was suddenly half-shredded: it’s a painting with a deficit.’

‘In that case, the buyer has a right to a new painting. But they can’t have it, because the artwork is unique. That means a different solution is needed, and the first thing that comes to mind is financial compensation.’ But in order to receive compensation, damage has to be proven. The question is, however, whether the damage done is all that severe, as the piece has probably only gone up in value. ‘Claiming compensation becomes almost impossible, since there isn’t any actual damage done.’

Then there’s the issue of copyright: ‘What happened here is the mutilation of an artwork. The copyright owner can take action against this.’ But this isn’t relevant either, since it’s the copyright owner himself who destroyed the product. ‘Legally speaking, this is a very complicated case. But if the artwork has actually gone up in value because of the shredding, the buyer will probably not want to take any action anyway.’


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