This Shredded Banksy Painting Sold for 25 Million USD 

Micaela Preble
May 13, 2022

Banksy, the British anonymous street artist, is one of the most highly sought-after artists in the contemporary space. The artwork titled Girl With Balloon went up for auction previously in 2018 at the auction house Sotheby’s, with high interest that the painting would fair well given the heightening demand of the artist’s market at the time.

Banksy art had fallen under a limited supply in recent years when Banksy stopped producing his authentic prints in 2017. It is also rare that original work in such condition would appear at auction, making this a sale that all eyes watched. However, Banky’s relationship with the art market is nuanced and wouldn’t leave us dissatisfied. 


Banksy stencil of girl with heart, London, UK
Banksy stencil of girl with balloon, London, UK

What Was The Banksy Painting That Shredded?

The painting that went up for auction was Banksy’s Girl with Balloon. Girl with Balloon is easily one of Banksy’s most recognizable images. This imagery was first spotted in 2002 on London’s West Bank, stenciled atop a washed-up wall that was passed by many pedestrians daily. What makes this particular graffiti so eye-catching and memorable is its ability to speak a message in mere seconds.

The composition is quite simple. The piece depicts the shadow outline of a little girl reaching for a red heart-shaped balloon. The little girl is painted in black and white, with little detail, making her a universal subject matter. Her heart-shaped balloon pops brightly, signifying hope. Here, Banksy creates a metaphor than can resonate with almost anyone who is struggling or has struggled. When everything appears black and white, there is always a glimmer of hope pushing you through.

It is atypical for a stenciled work of this particular imagery to be up for auction when the majority are reproduced prints. According to Christie’s James Baskerville, Girl with Balloon is the most desirable of Banksy’s artworks.


EMBARGOED till 12 noon 03 September 2021 - London, UK. 3rd Sep, 2021. Banksy's Love is in the bin, a painting shredded by the artist in Sotheby's london auction room in 2018. It is to be offered in the contemporary art evening auction on october 14 with an estimate of £4-6 million. It sold in 2018 for £1m. On show at Sotheby's New Bond Street Galleries, London. The sale takes place on 14 Oct. Credit: Guy Bell/Alamy Live News
EMBARGOED till noon 03 September 2021 – London, UK. 3rd Sept, 2021. Banksy’s Love is in the bin, a painting shredded by the artist in Sotheby’s London auction room in 2018. It is to be offered in the contemporary art evening auction on October 14 with an estimate of £4-6 million. It sold in 2018 for £1m. On show at Sotheby’s New Bond Street Galleries, London. The sale takes place on 14 Oct. Credit: Guy Bell/Alamy Live News

What is the significance of Banksy’s Love Is in The Bin sale?

Banksy’s critique of capitalism and consumerism is a key theme he explores and revisits throughout his career. Numerous examples of his artwork touch on symbols of consumerism leading to an excess in our western society. The art market is no exception to this. Banksy had previously poked fun at the art market with his interpretation of the new era in the art market, with the emergence of mega lots fetching staggering sums of money. Banksy‘s mocking interpretation features a  large canvas being auctioned humorously bears the words, in block capitals, “I can’t believe you morons actually buy this shit.” 

Banksy mocks the crowd, representing art collectors in general, who are ready to bid vast sums of money to acquire artworks. Ironically, Banksy himself is, at this current date, often the center of intense bidding from art collectors willing to purchase his works for very high prices.

The shredding of the painting occurred seconds after the gavel had fallen at the winning bid. The saleroom erupted in applause that quickly transitioned into gasps. The shredder was activated, and the painting began to pass through the bottom portion of the frame, where the shredder was located. This is the first time during an auction that the work was damaged on the sales floor.

Only the bottom half of the painting was partially destroyed due to the shredder malfunctioning. Once it stopped, the painting was escorted out of the salesroom, leaving the audience in disarray and shock.

Recordings and accounts of the event were broadcasted on various news sites, reporting the shredding of the Banksy painting as a new moment in art history.


Why Did Banksy Shred His Painting?

In a video, Banksy explained that he had secretly installed a shredder in the painting frame, titled Girl with Balloon, to destroy it if it ever went up for auction. The anonymous artist is known for creating satirical and subversive political art, and by shredding the painting, he essentially turned the auction itself into a work of art. The result was renamed by Pest Control, Banksy’s authentication group, from Girl with Balloon to Love Is in The Bin — a clever name to highlight the “disappointment” to those involved in a sale that was garnering so much hope. Market watchers speculated that the self-destruction would increase the artwork’s value.

Despite the damage done, the work was then analyzed to be appreciated even more than what it sold for in 2018. The art world was nowhere near prepared for what Banksy’s artwork would be valued after the artist’s prank.

London, UK. 12th Oct, 2018. Sotheby's staff members present Banksy's "Love is in the Bin" in London, Britain on Oct. 12, 2018. Originally titled "Girl with Balloon", the British street artist Banksy made his painting self-destruct on Oct. 5 moments after it was auctioned for 1.042 million British pounds (1.37 million U.S. dollars) at Sotheby's in London. Credit: Ray Tang/Xinhua/Alamy Live News
London, UK. 12th Oct 2018. Sotheby’s staff members presented Banksy’s “Love is in the Bin” in London, Britain, on Oct. 12, 2018. Originally titled “Girl with Balloon,” the British street artist Banksy made his painting self-destruct on Oct. 5, moments after auctioned for 1.042 million British pounds (1.37 million U.S. dollars) at Sotheby’s in London. Credit: Ray Tang/Xinhua/Alamy Live News

How Much Did Love Is in The Bin Sell For?

In October of 2021, the anticipated new valuation was tested at Sotheby’s Marquee sale in London. A number of bidders were present and wanted their chance for the shredded Banksy painting. After a 10-minute bidding process, the half shredded painting had sold for 18.5 million GBP (25 Million USD). The hammer price was more than triple the pre-sale estimate of the painting post shredding, 4-6 million USD. This price also set an auction record for Banksy.

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Micaela Preble
Micaela is an NYC-based art content writer covering art investing, art news, and art historical content. Micaela graduated from Georgia Southern University in 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts in Art History with a minor in communication arts. During her time at GSU she was a member of The Design Group (DG) and Student Art League (SAL) while also actively participating in curating and volunteering at the Center for Art and Theatre.