Banksy shocks art world by shredding £1 mn work at auction

Banksy himself posted an Instagram picture of shocked onlookers watching the painting disintegrate. (Screengrab)
Updated 06 October 2018

Banksy shocks art world by shredding £1 mn work at auction

  • Sotheby’s says this was ‘certainly’ the first time a work of art started to shred itself after coming under the hammer
  • Once a small-time graffiti artist from the English city of Bristol, Banksy’s work has become hugely valuable

LONDON: Art prankster Banksy has struck again.
The British street artist has stunned the art world with arguably his most audacious prank yet, self-destructing one of his best-known works moments after it fetched more than a million pounds at auction in London.
“Girl with Balloon” had just sold at Sotheby’s Friday for £1,042,000 ($1.4 million, 1.2 million euros) — a joint record for the maverick artist — when an alarm sounded and it unexpectedly passed through a shredder hidden in the frame, emerging from the bottom in strips.
“It appears we just got Banksy-ed,” said Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s head of contemporary art for Europe, in a press release accompanied by a photo of the bizarre episode.
“The unexpected incident became instant art world folklore and certainly marks the first time in auction history that a work of art automatically shredded itself after coming under the hammer,” the auctioneers added in the statement.
Banksy posted his own photo from midway through the shredding on his Instagram page early Saturday, showing onlookers aghast at the stunt.
The caption written below, imitating an auctioneer, read: “going, going, gone.”

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Going, going, gone...

A post shared by Banksy (@banksy) on


The post, and reports of a man dressed in black sunglasses and a hat scuffling with security guards near the entrance to Sotheby’s shortly after the incident, led to speculation the artist was present to trigger it.
Sotheby’s, which could not be immediately reached for further comment on Saturday, did not disclose if it had prior knowledge of the stunt.
Branczik said he was “not in on the ruse,” according to The Art Newspaper.
“We are busy figuring out what this means in an auction context,” he reportedly added.
“The shredding is now part of the integral art work.”
Sotheby’s did not release details on the buyer, but reports said the winning bid was made by telephone.
“We have talked with the successful purchaser who was surprised by the story,” the auctioneers said in a statement to The Financial Times.
“We are in discussion about next steps.”
Banksy, who has never disclosed his full identity, began his career spray-painting buildings in Bristol, England, and has become one of the world’s best-known artists. He rose to fame painting clandestine street murals, typically simple graffiti stencils with a sharp political point, all over the world.
His mischievous and often satirical images include two policemen kissing, armed riot police with yellow smiley faces and a chimpanzee with a sign bearing the words “Laugh now, but one day I’ll be in charge.”
He also has a penchant for elaborate pranks.
In 2005, he hung an image of a spear-toting ancient human pushing a shopping cart in the British Museum, where it remained for several days before being discovered. The next year he smuggled a life-sized figure of a Guantanamo Bay detainee into Disneyland, and in 2015 he erected a full-scale dystopian theme park — “Dismaland” — by the British seaside.
The artist has also produced a treasure trove of other kinds of images, and his head-turning work have repeatedly sold for hundreds of thousands of pounds, including to a raft of famous people.
His “Happy Choppers” from 2006 fetched $735,000 also on Friday at a New York auction of personal effects owned by the late actor Robin Williams and his wife.
The price paid in London Friday evening for “Girl with Balloon” matched the artist’s previous record at a 2008 auction for another work, Sotheby’s said.
Prior to its shredding, the faux-gilt framed piece — spray paint and acrylic on canvas mounted on board — depicted a girl reaching out toward a bright red, heart-shaped balloon. It was originally stenciled on a wall in east London and has been endlessly reproduced, becoming one of Banksy’s best-known images.


It was instantly recognizable as a Banksy to anyone familiar with his work.
Banksy is not the first artist to deconstruct his own work. In the years after World War II, German-born artist Gustav Metzger pioneered “auto-destructive art,” creating paintings using acid that ate away the fabric beneath.
Mehdi Ben Cheikh, a Parisian street art specialist, said the stunt was “in the same vein as his performance in New York, which questions and criticizes the limits of the art market.”
Banksy in 2013 set up a stand near the city’s Central Park and sold 20 signed canvases of his own work for $60 each.

 


What makes dogs so special? Science says love

Updated 20 February 2020

What makes dogs so special? Science says love

  • Canine science has enjoyed a resurgence in the past two decades, much of it extolling dogs’ smarts
  • Although dogs have an innate predisposition for affection, it requires early life nurturing to take effect

WASHINGTON: The idea that animals can experience love was once anathema to the psychologists who studied them, seen as a case of putting sentimentality before scientific rigor.
But a new book argues that, when it comes to dogs, the word is necessary to understanding what has made the relationship between humans and our best friends one of the most significant interspecies partnerships in history.
Clive Wynne, founder the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, makes the case in “Dog is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You.”
The animal psychologist, 59, began studying dogs in the early 2000s, and, like his peers, believed that to ascribe complex emotions to them was to commit the sin of anthropomorphism — until he was swayed by a body evidence that was growing too big to ignore.
“I think there comes a point when it’s worth being skeptical of your skepticism,” the Englishman said.
Canine science has enjoyed a resurgence in the past two decades, much of it extolling dogs’ smarts.
Titles like “The Genius of Dogs” by Brian Hare have advanced the idea that dogs have an innate and exceptional intelligence.
Wynne, however plays spoilsport, arguing that Fido is just not that brilliant.
Pigeons can identify different kinds of objects in 2D images; dolphins have shown they understand grammar; honeybees signal the location of food sources to each other through dance; all feats that no dogs have ever been known to accomplish.
Even wolves, dogs’ ancestor species known for their ferocity and lack of interest in people, have shown the ability to follow human cues — including, in a recent Swedish study, by playing fetch.
Wynne proposes a paradigm shift, synthesizing cross-disciplinary research to posit that it is dogs’ “hypersociability” or “extreme gregariousness” that sets them apart.
One of the most striking advances comes from studies regarding oxytocin, a brain chemical that cements emotional bonds between people, but which is, according to new evidence, also responsible for interspecies relationships between dogs and humans.
Recent research led by Takefumi Kikusui at Japan’s Azabu University has shown that levels of the chemical spike when humans and their dogs gaze into each other’s eyes, mirroring an effect observed between mothers and babies.
In genetics, UCLA geneticist Bridgett vonHoldt made a surprising discovery in 2009: Dogs have a mutation in the gene responsible for Williams syndrome in humans — a condition characterized by intellectual limitations and exceptional gregariousness.
“The essential thing about dogs, as for people with Williams syndrome, is a desire to form close connections, to have warm personal relationships — to love and be loved,” writes Wynne.
Numerous insights have also been gleaned through new behavior tests — many devised by Wynne himself and easy to replicate at home with the help of treats and cups.
One involved researchers using a rope to pull open the front door of a dog’s home and placing a bowl of food at an equal distance to its owner, finding that the animals overwhelmingly went to their human first.
Magnetic resonance imaging has drilled down on the neuroscience, showing that dogs’ brains respond to praise as much or even more than food.
But although dogs have an innate predisposition for affection, it requires early life nurturing to take effect.
Nor is the love affair exclusive to humans: A farmer who raised pups among a penguin colony on a tiny Australian island was able to save the birds from marauding foxes, in an experiment that was the basis for a 2015 film.
For Wynne, the next frontiers of dog science may come through genetics, which will help unravel the mysterious process by which domestication took place at least 14,000 years ago.
Wynne is an advocate for the trash heap theory, which holds that the precursors to ancient dogs congregated around human dumping grounds, slowly ingratiating themselves with people before the enduring partnership we know today was established through joint hunting expeditions.
It’s far less romantic than the popular notion of hunters who captured wolf pups and then trained them, which Wynne derides as a “completely unsupportable point of view” given the ferocity of adult wolves who would turn on their human counterparts.
New advances in the sequencing of ancient DNA will allow scientists to discover when the crucial mutation to the gene that controls Williams syndrome occurred.
Wynne guesses this happened 8,000 — 10,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age, when humans began regularly hunting with dogs.
What makes these findings important, beyond advancing science, is their implications for dogs’ welfare, he argues.
That means rejecting brutal, pain-based training methods like choke collars based on debunked understandings of “dominance” popularized by celebrity trainers who demand dog owners become “pack leaders.”
“All your dog wants is for you to show them the way,” says Wynne, through compassionate leadership and positive reinforcement.
It also means carving out time to meet their social needs instead of leaving them isolated for most of the day.
“Our dogs give us so much, and in return they don’t ask for much,” he says.
“You don’t need to be buying all these fancy expensive toys and treats and goodness knows what that are available.
“They just need our company; they need to be with people.”