Sat, Oct 27, 2018 - Page 14 News List

Bilingual Arts: Doth the artist protest too much?

The spray-painted canvas “Girl with Balloon” by artist Banksy is pictured in this undated photo provided by Sotheby’s.

Photo: AP

The spray-painted work Girl with Balloon, by the mysterious artist who goes by the name Banksy, was put on sale at Sotheby’s in London earlier this month. Soon after the hammer fell, with a final auction price of US$1.4 million, the painting began emitting a beeping sound, and the canvas began to slip down as it was fed through a paper shredder installed inside the frame. Just as suddenly as it had started, it stopped, with only half of the canvas shredded.

The media lapped up the ensuing astonishment and confusion. Banksy would later release a short video on his Instagram site showing the process of installing the shredder, revealing himself to have been the culprit behind it. He had wanted to prevent the sale of the work, should it ever be put up for auction.

Graffiti artist Banksy started his own brand of guerilla warfare from Britain, targeting cities throughout the world with works of social criticism and satirical comment on capitalism. This type of self-destruction, the anti-art approach on display on this occasion, of fighting against the idea that art is a commodity to the bought and sold, has a precursor in Dada, Conceptual Art and Performance Art. Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) famously entered a signed urinal for an art auction, in so doing creating a Dadaist masterpiece.

When the auction hammer hits the gavel, it is not just the price of the auctioned work that is being decided, it is the piece’s place in history and its market value. With every auction, these are being renegotiated and redefined. The mechanism of the art market is an even more mysterious, invisible hand; the market value, represented by money, has symbolic significance collectively decided by the society.

As such, Sotheby’s announced that Banksy’s Girl with Balloon was the first instance in the history of art in which the work was essentially created within the auction venue, and that it would rename the new piece Love is in the Bin and sell it to the original winning bidder at the auction price. It seems that Banksy hath protested too much; could it be that he has been seduced by capitalism’s dark side?

Banksy subsequently released another video, with a shot showing a hand pressing a remote switch in the auction house, followed by another showing the process of testing the shredding device — in which the entire canvas was successfully cut into strips — as a way to explain his true intent. In this, the creation of this new work could only have been possible in the social media age: a living artist engaged in a dialectical negotiation with an auction house and the media, even to the extent of manipulating the orientation of the discourse surrounding it. This meta art approach succeeded in deconstructing the traditional passive process of a work of art having its value decided from outside.

(Translated by Paul Cooper)

代號「班克西」的匿名藝術家,其噴漆畫《Girl with Balloon》(氣球女孩)本月初在倫敦的蘇富比拍賣會上標售,美金一百四十萬元落槌後,這畫開始嗶嗶作響,然後畫布一瀉而下,穿透畫框內藏的碎紙機絞成碎條……然後奇異地,中途忽然停止,只碎了一半。




於是,蘇富比宣布,《氣球女孩》是藝術史上第一件在拍賣會中完成的作品,將改名為《Love is in the Bin》(愛在垃圾桶),按原拍定的價格賣給原得標者。班克西對於資本市場的收編,不過是欲拒還迎。

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