Happening in and around the White Cube this week…
I’d like to take a moment to talk about the viral Banksy shredding. Last week, the internet blew up with the news: the renowned street artist remotely shredded one of his paintings just after it was sold at a Sotheby’s art auction in London on Oct. 5. According to a video on Instagram, Banksy had installed the shredder inside the painting’s frame in case it were to be auctioned off.
Banksy is all about making a statement. When I first heard about the shredding, I rolled my eyes. Of course Banksy destroyed his own artwork. I was so over it. The idea of selling a Banksy is absurd—his pieces are meant to be public and ephemeral, accessible to all for free. Consequently, destroying his painting was the ultimate power move.
Art auctions are capitalist ventures, and the money raised rarely funds the artist—the very thing Banksy fights against. According to The Guardian, by destroying his art, Banksy increased its value by at least 50 per cent. The shredded Girl with Balloon is now worth over CAD $3 million.
Banksy didn’t destroy an artwork in the auction, he created one.” – Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s head of contemporary art, Europe.
Regardless of whether Banksy intended or expected the value to increase this much, we’re talking about the whole ordeal. Banksy has forced us to confront this system and is encouraging us to reconsider how we experience art and what we expect from it.
His pieces are admired by many for their rich and socially-relevant aesthetic qualities, but they aren’t meant to be sold. “I don’t charge people to see my art unless there’s a fairground wheel,” Banksy wrote on Instagram in response to news of an exhibition about him in Moscow that he was not aware of. I believe that Banksy would agree that locking his art inside a frame and placing it in a white cube is like jailing an innocent person.
The art world is so much more than what is happening inside the white cube, and there shouldn’t be a price tag on that unless the artist is involved and profiting too.
I created this column and named it the White Cube in a similar spirit—to acknowledge the capitalist corner of the art world and attempt to remedy this way of thinking by promoting mostly free and accessible art. I’m not going to lie, it’s harder than I expected.
That being said, if you are an artist, collective or just a person who happens to know of art available outside the white cube, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Graphic by Ana Bilokin and @spooky_soda