No sooner had the gavel fallen on the $1.4 million sale of Banksy’s iconic “Girl with a Balloon” artwork than it was destroyed by a shredder built into the frame.
It was a big moment and an even bigger statement, not least because it seemed to suggest that Banksy would prefer to make an artistic gesture than make a cool million.
In the wake of the grand gesture, Banksy reportedly quoted Mikhail Bakunin and declared, “The urge to destroy is also the creative urge.”
That’s all well and good when you’re filthy rich, but for most people the urge to make ends meet and put food on the table is also the creative urge.
Experts in these high-brow matters have already speculated since is in tatters, the “Girl with a Balloon” painting has probably doubled in value due to the sudden surge in interest, which would suggest that Banksy is something of a shrewd capitalist as well as a revolutionary artist.
Although he slams galleries that are “unauthorized “to sell his work and prefers money from his sold artwork to go to charity, according to the Daily Mail Banksy is estimated to have a net worth of $20 million a year. That’s some serious dollar and although he’s previously dismissed the whole concept of “commercial success” and even requested people refrain from buying his work, he’s still pulling in a lot of the folding stuff. Here’s how.
Banksy’s wall mural work is given away free to any wandering eye which cares to appreciate it, but it is thought that Banksy draws some of his revenue from publishing books about his work, such as the bestseller Wall and Piece published in 2005 by Random House Publishing.
And then there was the documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop. The film was nominated for an Academy Award and turned a profit of more than $5 million. The film’s premise is about a young French artist who goes hunting high and low for Banksy. A bit like a remake of The Scarlet Pimpernel, but with different accents.
Banksy’s art agency Pest Control is now the “sole point of sale” for any new work by the artist. The agency also prevents any counterfeit Banksy product from hitting the market by validating the work and preventing any instances of fraud.
Despite his millions, the street artist refuses to be defined by commercial success. In 2013 he spoke to Village Voice about his thoughts on street art.
“Graffiti art has a hard enough life as it is, before you add hedge-fund managers wanting to chop it out and hang it over the fireplace…. For the sake of keeping all street art where it belongs, I’d encourage people not to buy anything by anybody unless it was created for sale in the first place.”
Or in other words, rip it up and start again.