Banksy: Girl with Balloon painting at auction - was it really shredded and how much is it expected to go for?

In 2017, Girl with Balloon was voted as the UK’s favourite piece of artwork

Girl with Balloon, the iconic artwork from street artist Banksy, will once again be put up for sale at the same auction house that it was dramatically shredded in three years prior.

This is everything you need to know - and how much it’s expected to go for.

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What is Girl with Balloon?

The Girl with Balloon is a piece of work created by street artist Banksy.

It depicts an image of a small black and white girl reaching for a red love heart shaped balloon which is floating away out of her grasp.

It first appeared on the streets of London in the Shoreditch neighborhood in 2002. Banksy then went on to create versions of the painting on London’s South Bank in 2004 and also at Israel’s barrier at the West Bank in 2005.

In 2017, a poll ranked by Samsung crowned Girl with Balloon to be the UK’s number one favourite piece of art.

Was it really shredded?

In 2018, a framed copy of the piece was auctioned as the final lot of the night at Sotheby’s.

Just as it was hammered at £860,000, which was really £1.04 million including fees, an alarm was triggered within the frame housing the artwork.

Sotheby’s employees pose with ‘Love is in the Bin’ by British artist Banksy (Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Onlookers watched as the canvas slipped through its frame and was partly shredded to pieces.

Alex Branczik, the auction house’s head of contemporary art in Europe at the time, said: “Were we in on it? Absolutely not.”

On Instagram, Banksy posted a picture of Girl with Balloon and wrote: “Some people think it didn’t really shred. It did. Some people think the auction house were in on it, they weren’t.”

Pest Control, the authentication body for the street artist, legally designated the piece as a new piece of work altogether, with Banksy renaming it Love is in the Bin.

Oliver Barker, Auctioneer and Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, said: “Auctions are live theatre, and as with any live production we need to prepare for all eventualities, but we were Banskyed, and you can never prepare yourself for that.

“Banksy is the ultimate art world outlaw, and in one exhilarating and shocking moment, Sotheby’s became the unwitting stage for his audacious piece of performance art.

“We are looking forward to welcoming Love is in the Bin back to the very rooms where it was created.”

When will it be auctioned - and how much will it cost?

Love in the Bin will return to Sotheby’s London to be auctioned, almost three years to the date when the artwork was shredded at the same location.

Following a travelling exhibition which saw the piece go to Hong Kong, Taipei and New York, it will be auctioned off in London today, Thursday 14 October.

According to Sotheby’s, the painting is estimated to sell for between £4-6 million.

Are other Banksy pieces being auctioned?

A two part version of the Girl with Balloon painting will go up for auction later this month.

The rare version of the painting, one of 25 created by Banksy in 2005, features the young girl in one painting and the heart shaped balloon in a separate one.

It’s estimated that the two part piece could fetch up to $4.75 million.

Speaking to Reuters, Katherine Arnold, co-head of Post-War and Contemporary Art for Christie’s auction in Europe, said: “It’s a pretty signature image for Banksy in that he did the first iteration of it on the streets.

“There are some iterations of this where you see the little girl with the balloon in the tiny little format of a single canvas.

“Here… the balloon is already flown away into a second canvas. And of course, that means that she’s forever separated from her little heart balloon that she’s hankering after.”

A gallery employee poses with an artwork entitled ‘Girl and Balloon’ (Diptych) by Banksy (Photo: LINDA ABI ASSI/AFP via Getty Images)

Arnold added: “It’s an image that really is about hope and aspiration, which after the last 18 months that we’ve gone through is something that we all need more than ever.”

Earlier in October it was revealed that another Banksy piece, titled Sunflower From Petrol Station, was also going to be put up for auction by fashion designer Sir Paul Smith.

Ahead of its auction on 9 November, the piece will be displayed in Los Angeles and Hong Kong. It has been valued at between £8.8 million and £13.2 million by auction house Christie’s.

Sir Paul said: “What initially attracted me to Banksy was his confidence and clarity to communicate something exactly as it is, I was so impressed by his observations of what was happening in the world and that remains true of the work he’s doing today.

“His political statements are completely on point, really profound, really brave and consistently delivered in a modern way.

“I was delighted to have the opportunity to be able to own a piece of his work and the Sunflower itself presents such a brilliantly unique way of thinking about things.”

Girl with Balloon, Love is in the Air and NOLA (Yellow Rain) by Banksy are displayed during preparations ahead of online sales at Christies Auction House (Photo: Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

Arnold said: “Following the record-breaking sale of Game Changer in March – another major oil on canvas by Banksy – we are delighted to offer Sunflowers From Petrol Station this November.

“Belonging to the legendary British designer Sir Paul Smith, the work is an icon within Banksy’s oeuvre, capturing not only his facility as a painter but also the wry humour that he brings to bear upon global issues.

“Here, the sheer comedy of wilted flowers bought from a petrol station becomes a means of highlighting our relationship with art and the environment: both, he reminds us, are transient.”

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