Girl with the Red Balloon shredding after it was sold at auction for over £1m. Photo: Instagram/Banksy Girl with the Red Balloon shredding after it was sold at auction for over £1m. Photo: Instagram/Banksy

Banksy shredding his painting moments after it sold for over £1m at auction showed up the out-of-touch super-rich and everything wrong with modern art culture

Picture the scene. Sotheby’s auction room in London. Vibrant and packed to the rafters with rich people who look like the cast of “Made In Chelsea”. Most people in the room are there to see Banksy’s infamous “Girl with Red Balloon” which was then sold for just over a million pounds. Just after the auctioneer says “Sold!” – a mechanical noise is just about heard above the applause. The room turns around and the Banksy painting is shredding in front of their very eyes. People start filming on their phones and applauding what is unfolding in front of them.

This is beautiful. We have all witnessed a rare great moment in modern art history.

“The Shredding of a Banksy In An Auction Room” is an artwork in its own right. Finally, the guerrilla artist has responded to the sale of his works against his ethos and creative being.

Posted on his Instagram later, Banksy revealed that he had built the shredder into the painting’s frame to call the bluff of auctioneers and buyers.

Banksy’s graffiti is often intended to highlight inequality and systemic injustices in society. Among his many prominent pieces, he has famously painted in the Gaza Strip and on the Apartheid Wall in the West Bank where he has also opened the Walled Off Hotel, paying tribute to the Palestinian struggle.

Instead, we are hearing of the super-rich disrespecting Banksy’s wishes and profiting from his works. We hear later the painting is now worth more (even double apparently) damaged. Surely the painting shredding in front of the buyer is a similar situation to the auctioneer assistant dropping the most priceless vase just after it’s been sold? In those circumstances, we would not be hearing that the pieces of the Quialong Vase (the world’s most expensive vase, which ironically sat for years on a bookcase and was only insured for $800) going for more than it was sold for. Also, in those circumstances, the clumsy person who dropped it would be the headlines and out of a job.

Sadly the usual speculation is ongoing that Banksy was present. Was the person who clearly filmed it all, Banksy? Or was he the man who triggered the shredder? Was Massive Attack playing London that day? One of the theories is that Banksy is a member of the Bristol trip-hop music group; supposedly tour dates clash with Banksy appearing on walls.

Who cares who he is? What matters is that his works appear; and the uniqueness of the message in each one. One thing is for certain, Banksy has in his own typical fashion, highlighted everything that’s wrong with modern art culture and its commodification as well as how out of touch the super rich paying millions for anti-establishment graffiti works are.

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