To Shred or Not Shred
A few days back, there was a fascinating story in the news that literally tore the Art world apart. Banksy a reclusive and secretive artist, had one of his Stencil Arts "Girl with Balloon" shredded before a huge audience. In the midst of a tense bidding war, seconds after the art was hammered sold (for $1.37 Million) the art slid mechanically through a shredder hidden inside the frame and came out the other side looking like spaghetti! While there are many theories going around ranging from the technology used, to the involvement of the auction house, what's more interesting is how this episode highlights one of the most critical aspects of art, how public perception influences art pricing! Contrary to regular logic the damaged art work is now valued more than the undamaged art work. But how is that possible?
The shredded art is now titled "Love is in the Bin"
Pricing Art has always been tricky. Art unlike consumer products gets priced and re-priced multiple times. The Artist however plays a part in pricing his art only the first time it enters the market, if at all he plans on selling it (Vincent Van Gogh was notorious for giving away his art). The value of the art is initially based on what the artist "feels" about it. The artist equates his emotions to a physical amount he feels justifies his effort. But once the art hits the public eye and captures the market's attention, it follows a completely different trajectory. The art is no longer in the domain of the artist and he has no say in the subsequent pricing or valuation of his own art work, even if it was given away for free by the artist. The art is now a valuable investment of the owner, and is priced by the public's fascination towards it and this pricing will always be many folds the artist's original selling price. Now you are no longer paying for just the artist's emotions but along with it you are paying for the public fascination too. And this keeps getting compounded every time the art hits the market place.
So what happens to the "Girl with Balloon"? Well, it becomes a new artwork in itself and has another story and memory added to it's existence which will add into it's perceived market value.
However, I do have one uneasy question that I am not clear about. Remember the art is no longer Banksy's when the hammer struck and by shredding it he has actually vandalised somebody else's property. Is it a clever marketing gimmick? Or a criminal offence? I don's know. What do you think? Would love to know your views.
- Sriharsha Ganjam