Myth-busting the self-shredding Banksy painting


Originally published at:


Once the media thrill wears off, it’ll seem obvious that Sothebys has no security or credibility as custodians of valuable art.

Hi @beschizza, I think you missed a word there. You mean they’ll have lost no credibility as custodians as valuable art, yes?


It is pretty obvious that the shredded picture coming out the bottom is a different picture to the one in the frame. It doesn’t line up either laterally or vertically. It also appears to be a different colour, but that might be lighting or the glass in the frame (if any).


I’ll rephrase, it’s confusing


Conspiracy thinking:
1.) This work is probably MORE valuable monetarily because of it’s current notoriety.
2.) Sotheby’s is going to want to maximize the bid because that increases their share.
3.) That can’t happen unless some of the bidders are in on this little piece of “performance art.”
4.) I think that there is a good chance that they told at least some of the bidders that there was going to be a “happening” at the auction.


Old News - artists have set their guitars on fire and smashed them for over a half a century.


The art is the destruction of the art. I had an artist friend back in 1998 who used to do similar installations, gallery openings during which the art itself would self-destruct or be accidentally destroyed by the patrons (by making the aisles for people to walk in too narrow, for example, so that they’d accidentally brush against the charcoal drawings, defacing them). I guess the only real difference here is the Banksy name and the Sotheby’s name, so people notice.


Banksy the secret façade of the establishment is much more interesting than Banksy the winkingly tolerated street artist


Shredding a painting is all very well, but I prefer Chris Burden’s installation Samson which not only destroys itself, but also the space it’s installed in. Every person that goes through the turnstile advances a jack pushing on the load bearing walls of the gallery.



I think Sotheby’s will be just fine pretending they didn’t know anything. Everyone will understand their participation anyway, and it’s a much better story if everyone pretends it was a surprise. The illusion is part of the art.


It sucks to be the last visitor…


It’s a heckuva door prize, no mistake.


Meanwhile - in Sotheby’s washrooms . . .


Having found out the truth, “I haz a sad.”


Re: batteries. There is also a class of batteries called “reserve” batteries, designed to be stored for decades and then be ready for use. Sometimes the electrolyte is kept separate from the plates and only added at the last moment so that there is no slow, high resistance discharging of the the battery. The military is big on that sort of thing, although judging from how poorly engineered the actual shredding part of the mechanism, I doubt Banksy put that much thought and engineering into it.
edited to add link.


A battery with a shelf life of 10 or 20 years isn’t really a big deal even without something exotic like a special purpose reserve battery. The major (but not insurmountable) problem with batteries is that you would need some circuit constantly running off the battery to trigger the mechanism. Probably you need something that goes into a hibernation mode where it wakes up 10 seconds every 30 minutes or so to listen for an “arm” signal, then goes into high power mode listening for the “shred” signal.

Totally possible, but not something that most people would design. It is just too difficult to have confidence that a 1-off prototype will function properly after 10 years. Military / hi-rel designs that need to work after being idle for 10 years are subject to extensive (and expensive) testing and design verification. Also, 10 years is not to hard, but what if it had been 20 years? Or 30? That requires considerably different design. Did Banksy “know” in 2006 that this painting would go up for auction in 2018? That is pretty unlikely. Maybe he just planned for “if it works, great, if not–oh well”, but I think Dave Jones’ assumption that the artist worked with the present owner to set up the shredder after the fact is most likely.


The colour change can be explained by the lightening.
If you check the video at 16’10 it’s obvious.

But I agree, it doesn’t seem to line up properly.


It’s not that batteries can’t last for years in storage, but rather that the device would have to actually be on, draining battery power for years listening for a remote command. Not impossible, but it does seem rather unlikely.


yes, but the battery amperage required for the electronics is probably an order of magnitude or so less than than that required for the shred motor.


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