Girl with a Balloon–Crime or Creative?

In October 2018 the anonymous British artist Banksy performed a stunt during a Southeby’s auction in which he concealed a shredding device in a frame that destroyed a work of his the moment it was sold. This prank raises many questions regarding fraud, property ownership, and artistic intent.

The work itself is a spray painting entitled “Girl with a Balloon” and depicts just that, a young girl outlined in black and white with an arm outstretched toward a red heart balloon that appears to be floating away.

In regards to questions of fraud, many thought that if Southeby’s knowingly participated in the prank, and thus sold an item they knew would soon be devalued, then there could be concerns regarding fraud. However, the auction house Southeby’s was unaware that the destruction of the piece was going to occur. When consigning the piece, they were explicitly told not to remove the work from it’s frame or it would damage its artistic value. While they suspected something may be going on, they were unaware that anything was actually going to happen.

The painting sold for $1.4 million dollars. The moment it was sold an alarm sounded and the painting began to shred itself. It’s believed that the event was a planned publicity stunt for Banksy.

Although ownership of the artwork is transferred the moment it is sold, and therefore when Banksy destroyed his work he was no longer it’s owner, I feel as though creators should have inherent rights over their works. Banksy created this work, it was his intellectual property, and if his artistic intent was to destroy it the moment it was sold in order to make a statement shouldn’t this be allowed? Shouldn’t a creator have some form of control regarding the fate of their works, or do the legalities outweigh the creative expression.

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Mariijke van der Geer

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