The art world was all atwitter earlier this month after an acclaimed, but anonymous, street artist known simply as Banksy set a Sotheby’s Auction House record for selling one of the artist’s paintings for $1.4 million. However, what set the art world a buzz was, that as soon as the auctioneer’s gavel fell closing the sale, the painting seemed to come to life and partially shredded itself to the astonishment of those in attendance.
Banksy immediately posted an image on Instagram of the shredded work dangling from the bottom of the frame with the title “Going, going, gone … ” A representative for the auction house, Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s senior director and head of contemporary art in Europe, commented, ““It appears we just got Banksy-ed.”
Banksy is known for pulling stunts that poke a sharp stick in the eye of the establishment—of trolling the art establishment elite. Much to the amusement of onlookers Banksy had struck again. Art critics immediately opined that the artist was maligning the consumerism and materialism of the art world’s fascination with collecting what the cultural elite deems avant-garde, cutting edge, new and unusual art forms and driving prices to artificially inflated levels.
Speculation and accusations against Sotheby’s complicity in the stunt naturally followed despite denials by the esteemed institution to the contrary. Questions followed: Does the purchaser still have to pony up the $1.4 million? What becomes of the destroyed piece? Who is responsible for this vandalism—this publicity stunt?
Well, obviously, Banksy rigged the frame with a hidden shredder just in case the piece, The Girl with the Balloon, was ever put up for auction. The purchaser could not be more delighted with his bid for now the price of this piece has sky rocketed. “That’s the ironic part about it,” Leon Benrimon, the director of modern and contemporary art at Heritage Auctions, told MONEY Magazine. “It was meant to be a criticism of the art market, and I think it’s going to double the value of the work.” Benrimon added, “You’d almost wonder if he’d recognize the fact that it would’ve doubled the value of the work.”
Notice the painting was partially shredded, not completely. How clever of the artist to do so because his piece will remain intact and continue to serve as commentary on the art world’s shallowness and superficial worldview. Offer Waterman, a British art dealer, told the New York Times, “It’s become worth more as a conceptual moment than as a work of art itself.” As the well-know artist Picasso, the poster child for meaningless existence, once commented, "The urge to destroy is also a creative urge.” Art is no longer creative expression; it is now creative destruction.
Art leads the culture. Artists take what philosophers suggest as the answers to the deep questions of life and convey those ideas to the culture. Once one leaves a biblical worldview and rejects the Bible as the basis for understanding and knowing reality, then one is left with a whirledview of a meaningless existence around him. Life makes no sense. A spray painted work of art now sets the standard for what is valuable, but only when it is shredded, inflated in value and used to mock the very elite who praise it. More such stunts will undoubtedly follow.
Christians are warned in Colossians 2:8 about such vanity, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
When one abandons a biblical worldview, he will inevitably commit his life to things and causes that are horribly vain and tragically fruitless. In the vernacular of the art world, one will get Banksy-ed.
Jesus warned, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21 ESV)
Bank on it.