Following the ongoing furore surrounding secretive street artist Banksy’s prank at Sotheby’s in London, in which his famous Girl With Balloon was shredded immediately after being sold for a record £1m, a renowned art dealer has branded the stunt “cynical, damaging and highly suspicious. All parties should be feeling ashamed.”
That’s the damning verdict of art dealer Stephen Howes of art agency Thomas Crown Art.
Mr Howes says: “This is not about art. This is the art of publicity. The whole stunt is just embarrassing.
“It is cynical, damaging and highly suspicious – all involved parties should be feeling quite ashamed.”
He continues: “It is cynical because Banksy claims to despise the commercialisation of the art world. But he will have known that this prank will make this piece an even greater part of art world history, and its value, even though currently shredded, will soar.
“He claims he is anti-establishment, like Donald Trump does – but like President Trump, Banksy couldn’t, in fact, nowadays be more ‘establishment’ in the art world.”
Mr Howes continues: “This silly, ‘aren’t-I-clever?’-style prank damages the credibility of the wider world of art, and is especially damaging for other talented street artists.
“The world should spend more time focusing on their immense talent that starts conversations and revolutions, that shifts perceptions and mindsets, that disturbs convention, and less on nonsense pranks to drive prices higher on an already famous painting for a famous artist.”
He goes on to say: “The whole set-up, to my mind, is highly suspicious. Many people had to be involved. Questions have to be asked including, amongst others: why was it the last lot in the auction? Did no-one notice the unusually heavy and thick frame for a piece of its size? How were people allowed in through security with bags full of electronic devices? And why was it mounted on a wall, and not on a podium for the moment of sale?”
Stephen Howes concludes: “This publicity stunt is demeaning to all involved. They have treated the public and the art world with mocking contempt.”
In this month’s Antique Collecting magazine, editor Georgina Wroe gives her opinion on the event, exploring whether it was a self-promotional stunt or clever commentary on the art world. Subscribe here to get your copy.