It’s the work of art that keeps on giving. Banksy’s Girl with Balloon, which was renamed Love is in the Bin by the artist’s studio Pest Control after it was shredded during a live auction at Sotheby’s in 2018, has quietly been renamed and given a new date—for a second time.
Nick Buckley Wood, the director of private sales at Sotheby’s in Asia, says the auction house was alerted to the change when organising the exhibition Love in Paradise: Banksy and Keith Haring, in South Korea last August. In the catalogue for the show, held at Paradise Art Space in Incheon, Sotheby’s notes the new title of the work as Girl Without Balloon. “Pest Control did not explain the name change,” Buckley Wood says, noting that the retitling only came to light when the auction house began to liaise with the studio over the exhibition. Pest Control declined to comment.
In October 2018, Girl with Balloon (2006) famously “self-destructed” in Sotheby’s London saleroom after a shredding mechanism concealed within the painting’s frame was activated as the winning bid hammered down. After a week of negotiation with Sotheby’s, Pest Control renamed the half-shredded canvas Love is in the Bin, issuing a new certificate of authenticity. Under its new title and new date of 2018, Sotheby’s persuaded the winning bidder—an anonymous female collector from Europe—to complete her purchase for £1.04m (including fees). “Banksy didn’t destroy an artwork in the auction, he created one,” said Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s then head of contemporary art in Europe, at the time.
In October 2021, Love is in the Bin returned to the block at Sotheby’s in London with a £4m-£6m estimate. After a ten-minute bidding battle, the work sold for a record £16m (£18.6m with fees) to an Asian collector who was bidding on the phone with Buckley Wood. It was after that sale that the work was renamed Girl Without Balloon and given a new date of 2021. Sotheby’s and Pest Control declined to comment on whether a new authentication certificate was issued.
Speaking to The Korea Times last year, Buckley Wood revealed: “The new piece started in 2021, which is when the old piece was destroyed. So we can only assume that Banksy wanted to change the name because the piece is a new painting.” Clarifying with The Art Newspaper, he notes that any “destruction” of the work was “symbolic”. Buckley Wood adds: “There was physically only one work. But the change in title implies that the work changed status in the mind of the artist.”