Banksy artwork auction puts the humble shredder in the spotlight

When it comes to tech devices, the paper shredder has always lived in the shadows.

Usually found shoved in the corner of workplaces and home offices, shredders can only ever stand solitarily as tech critics drool over the latest top-end smartphone release or excitedly show off the newest smartwatch or gaming console.

The shredder is not cool, though an auction at Sotheby’s this week briefly threatened to flip that reputation.

Perhaps we should explain.

Three years ago, Banksy — the artist with a global reputation but no apparent physical embodiment — auctioned his Girl With Balloon stencil at Sotheby’s in London. But seconds after the hammer went down on the final bid, and to the surprise and horror of everyone in the auction room, the artwork suddenly began to pass through a shredder built into the picture frame.

The drama didn’t end there, as halfway through the shredding process, the picture got stuck, and there and then a new Banksy artwork was born: Love is in the Bin.

Sotheby’s described it as “the first artwork in history to have been created live during an auction.”

This week, Love is in the Bin, with the bottom half of the artwork shredded and dangling out of the bottom of the picture frame, auctioned for an astonishing 18.6 million British pounds ($25.4 million). The buyer is reported to be a collector based in Asia.

It’s the largest amount anyone has ever paid for a Banksy, and surely the most money anyone has ever handed over for a shredder (sort of).

Auction assistants pose with “Love is in the Bin” by British street artist Banksy.
Auction assistants pose with Love is in the Bin by British street artist Banksy. Tolga Akmen/Getty Images

Here’s how Sotheby’s reported on Thursday’s historic auction:

“In an evening of drama, the highlights came thick and fast. But the excitement that greeted the seventh lot, Banksy’s Love is in the Bin (2018), was palpable.

“It sparked a fierce wave of bids, with the iconic piece finally going under the hammer for an astonishing 18,582,000 pounds, after a 10-minute chase by nine bidders.

“The first artwork in history to have been created live during an auction, Love is in the Bin tripled its 6-million-pound [guide price] in the very same Sotheby’s sale room in which it was born in 2018.”

Shortly after the initial shredding stunt three years ago, Banksy claimed that he’d intended to destroy the entirety of the artwork, explaining that earlier tests had worked perfectly. But when the big moment came, the shredder jammed as it failed to deal with the incoming paper, a mishap that will be all too familiar for regular users of the mundane — though now slightly cool — shredding machine.

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