Banksy Can Insult Collectors All He Wants—It Won’t Stop Them From Buying, His Sold-Out $1.4 Million Christie’s Online Auction Proves

A sarcastically titled sale of Banksy works drew eager buyers who didn't seem to mind the artist calling them "morons."

Banksy, Girl with Balloon (2004). Image courtesy of Christie's.

Depending on whose side you take, the cheeky title of an auction of work by the street artist Banksy—”I can’t believe you morons actually buy this sh*t,” a name taken from one of the artist’s own works—either worked like a charm or was an utter failure.

Doing precisely what the artist derides them for, buyers at Christie’s snapped up each of the online sale’s 29 lots, for a total of $1.4 million (far above presale expectations of $587,000 to $901,000). The top lot of the event was Banksy’s 2004 screenprint Girl with Balloon, featuring a gold heart-shaped balloon, which sold for £395,250 ($492,500)—a record for a Banksy print. Another Girl with Balloon, with a red heart, sold for £62,500 ($77,880).

Surprised onlookers react as Banksy's Girl With a Balloon self-destructs at Sotheby's.

Surprised onlookers react as Banksy’s Girl With a Balloon self-destructs at Sotheby’s.

Both prints are similar to the now infamous work that automatically shredded during a sale last year at Sotheby’s London, just after the gavel came down at $1.4 million. Sotheby’s later revealed that the winning bidder, who was described as a “female European collector” and a “longstanding client,” had decided to keep the work in its shredded form after a week of negotiations.

“When the hammer came down last week and the work was shredded, I was at first shocked, but gradually I began to realize that I would end up with my own piece of art history,” the collector said in a statement. (Banksy, meanwhile, agreed to “re-authenticate” the piece with a new title, Love Is in the Bin.)

Sotheby’s made the most of its publicity coup, describing the object as “the first work in history ever created during a live auction”—a claim to which Banksy could have easily replied: “I can’t believe you morons actually buy this…” well, you get it. (That quote, by the way, comes from the title of a 2007 work by Banksy depicting an auctioneer in a crowded salesroom.)

Meanwhile, the rumor mill has been churning of late about the possibility that Banksy is actually a member of the trip-hop group Massive Attack, which is kicking off a three-day concert series at Radio City Music Hall this week. “If the conspiracy buffs are right, you’ll want to be on the lookout for witty graffiti popping up around New York City this weekend,” the New York Post said. “Some believe that Banksy, the elusive, anonymous creator of politically cheeky graffiti and [vocalist Robert ‘3D’] Del Naja—who sings about having ‘a soul without a mind’ and ‘a body without a heart’—are the same person.”

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