On 5th October 2018, collectors and connoisseurs watched on in horror as an edition of Banksy’s Girl with Balloon (2006) self-destructed at a Sotheby’s auction. Going under the hammer for just over £1 million, it was only a few moments later that the spray-painted artwork started to shred. Signalled by the ring of a siren, Sotheby’s staff helplessly watched as the work’s hidden mechanism began to chew the unique canvas. By design or indeed by luck, the shredding stopped half-way through, leaving a semi-destroyed work. Girl with Balloon (2006) was transformed into what was swiftly re-titled Love is in the Bin (2018) and the incident instantly became renowned both in the art world and beyond.
IMAGE OF BANKSY'S LOVE IS IN THE BIN, 2018
Just three years after this iconic moment, the half-shredded work will return to Sotheby’s to be auctioned again. Now with an estimated sale price of £4 to £6 million, a high estimate that is nearly six times its original price, the work has become an impressive indicator of the strength of Banksy’s market. In light of this milestone, we take an in-depth dive into the effects the sale of Love Is In The Bin had in 2018 and what its return to market means for Banksy collectors in 2021.
BANKSY, GIRL WITH BALLOON, 2004
Unsurprisingly, following the creation of Love Is In The Bin, Banksy’s market soared, with the eighteen most expensive Banksy artworks ever sold at auction going under the hammer after the shredding incident. Over the past three years, the average price of a Banksy work at auction has also increased by 336%, constituting an annual return that far outweighs that of traditional indexes.
As Love Is In The Bin is the first ever work to be created at auction, the artwork defies traditional trajectories. Now on sale, just over three years later, the work has the highest estimate ever placed on a Banksy artwork. Emma Baker, a contemporary art specialist at Sotheby’s reportedly notes that even though it is the highest estimate ever placed on a work by Banksy, ‘if you look at the actual results achieved by Banksy, [the estimate] still feels quite attractive and conservative’.
With Banksy breaking his latest auction record only seven months ago, we can only expect interesting results from the upcoming auction. Going under the hammer for over 6 times its low estimate on 23rd March 2021, Game Changer (2020) was sold for £16.8 million, with all proceeds of the artwork donated to charities that supported the NHS. In an act of gratitude towards the National Health Service, following the global pandemic, the canvas celebrated the gruelling dedication of health workers across the country. The work became the most expensive artwork by Banksy ever to be sold at auction, breaking records and dominating headlines. Only seven months later, Love Is In The Bin poses a threat to this record, boasting the largest estimate of any Banksy work ever to go to auction.
BANKSY, LOVE IS IN THE AIR, 2003
Since the announcement of its return on Friday 3rd September 2021, there has been considerable excitement within the market. Following the news, 77 Banksy prints have been offered at auction with only 5 artworks failing to sell. This signals that after the publication of the work’s return to auction, the unsold rate of Banksy artworks at auction diminished by 43%, in comparison to the prior 245 days of 2021. In the 20 days following Sotheby’s statement, the total auction sales of Banksy works have totalled over $6 million (£4 million), with 97% of these lots being offered in Banksy-dedicated auctions.
In an interview with Milano Finanza, Maddox CEO John Russo noted that ‘the return of Banksy’s Love is in the Bin has naturally caused quite a stir in the art world, and in many respects, it couldn’t be better timed. With the artist continuing to garner global attention and his artwork consistently achieving record breaking results at auction, it’s highly possible that this work – especially given its viral history - could exceed its estimate’.
So, what does the future hold for the anonymous graffitist’s already burgeoning market?
BANKSY, CHOOSE YOUR WEAPON (GREY), 2010
Thanks to Banksy’s maverick status, critics and collectors have learned that predicting the artist’s next move is often futile. Who would have foreseen just over three years ago that Banksy’s unique work on canvas would get half-shredded to tatters during Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction? There are, however, some things that we can predict with near certainty. For example, rumours of Banksy ‘finishing what he started’ by completely shredding the work is highly unlikely, especially after it was confirmed by Sotheby’s that the internal mechanism was disabled by Pest Control following the original auction in 2018. In addition to this, we can almost certainly expect the sale of Love Is In The Bin to bolster Banksy’s already flourishing market.
On 14th October, the art world will wait with bated breath as the bidding begins, watching the latest milestone in the career of the Bristolian artist who has irrevocably changed the contemporary art market.