Banksy’s Shredding: Commentary or Cop Out?

As I’m sure you have all seen, the elusive Bansky has done it again. In the event that his painting was ever sold at auction (as it was this weekend for 1.4 million dollars), he installed a shredder into the frame so that he could destroy it upon purchase.

Though at first glance the act of destroying one of his works at its moment of purchase seems like a biting commentary of the Art World, is it really? The piece was originally auctioned at 1.4 million, but I am certain that in its semi destroyed state it is worth much more than that. This was not an act of destruction but rather an act of creation. By destroying the original piece, he imbued a whole new meaning into the half shredded work it has now become.

However, it is the meaning of this new destroyed piece that I am having trouble unpacking. This is not a commentary on the art market. It is an active participation in it. An artist as well known as Banksy knows that his art will carry great weight – both artistic and monetary – in any form it takes. Had he truly wanted to comment on the way art is sold in our society, he would not have taken the money, or let the piece go up for auction at all. To me, this act of “destruction” (note the quotation marks) is really just capitalism hidden beneath the thin veil of commentary. Maybe I’m just cynical, but something about this spectacle of quasi destruction just does not sit right with me.

An artist who I think articulates the point I am trying to make very well is Colombian Figure punter Nicolas Uribe, who urges people to look for original work and thoughts not in Banksy’s work but rather in the work of small local artist, whose art has more genuine intentions than that of Banksy.

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