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Yet the new layers of mythology and intrigue have only served to increase the work’s value, as it came up for auction this week with an estimate of up to £6 million – only to smash the predicted figure more than four times over, with a winning bid of a £18,582,000. Sotheby’s said that the lot ‘sparked a fierce wave of bids’ amid ‘a ten-minute chase by nine bidders’, all vying to own the ‘first artwork in history to have been created live during an auction’, which ‘tripled its £6 million in very same Sotheby’s saleroom in which it was born in 2018.’

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Following the sale of the previous incarnation of the piece three years ago, its anonymous artist wrote on Instagram: ‘Shredding the Girl and Balloon… Some people think it didn’t really shred. It did. Some people think the auction house were in on it, they weren’t.’ It’s thought that Banksy may have intended the work to be fully shredded, as a rehearsal video demonstrated the full length of the canvas being sliced into strips and dropping onto the floor as it passed through the frame.

Sotheby’s has dubbed the piece ‘the ultimate Banksy artwork.’ The auction house’s Head of Modern and Contemporary Art, Alex Branczik, is quoted in the MailOnline as stating: ‘When Girl with Balloon “self-destructed” in our saleroom, Banksy sparked a global sensation that has since become a cultural phenomenon… During that memorable night, Banksy did not so much destroy an artwork by shredding it, but instead created one. Today this piece is considered heir to a venerated legacy of anti-establishment art.’

Branczik added on Instagram: ‘Everyone keeps telling [us] that this painting is back on the market, after only three years. Let’s be clear, this painting, Love is in the Bin, created in Sotheby’s sale room on 5 October 2018, has never been on the market.’

Sotheby’s has positioned the work among that of other artists who challenge the rules of the very sphere in which they operate, such as Dadaist Marcel Duchamp, with his ‘readymade’ Fountain – a urinal signed with the pseudonym ‘R. Mutt’ – in 1917; and Ai Weiwei’s 1995 photographic series, Dropping a Han Dynasty urn.

Banksy’s works are renowned for fetching some of the highest prices in the contemporary art world, selling for many millions. Back in March, a mural created by the street artist in response to the pandemic – originally painted on a hospital wall in tribute to the country’s health workers – fetched £16.8 million at auction at Christie’s.

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