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Header photo courtesy of Banksy's Instagram:

You have a spare million dollars sitting around, right? I know I do. Unfortunately, it looks like I missed my chance to score some sweet art by Banksy. You know, the British graffiti guy? Oh, I’m sorry. Street artist. If that name still isn’t ringing a bell, there’s a good chance you’ve seen one of his designs somewhere. Probably this one:

Ah, yes. Back in the emo/scene days of the mid-2000s, that image was on everyone’s MySpace profile at least once. It’s been stolen or copied a few times since then, and has become his most famous work. It’s substantially less provocative than some of his other pieces, which have often featured a political undertone expressing Banksy’s anti-capitalist, anti-war, anti-whatever views. He also famously had a feud with another London-based artist, King Robbo, who died several years ago.

Whether or not you’re a fan of Banksy probably has more to do with if his political message resonates with you than your general opinion of graffiti/street art, but clearly, enough people like him that a painting of “Girl with Balloon,” the image above, managed to fetch $1.1 million at a Sotheby’s auction. Conveniently, the picture came with its own frame, which actually contained a shredding device, resulting in the following taking place after the item was sold.

Why did Banksy do this? Well, to make an anti-capitalist statement, naturally. At least that’s what Nicole Clark from Vice thinks. And I mean, I get it. I have two years of art school education, and I’ve seen much crazier stuff than this whose meaning I was supposed to be able to extrapolate – not that Banksy ever makes his intended message especially difficult to figure out.

To me, though, there’s a certain level of irony: the effectiveness of the work’s anti-capitalist subtext is dulled somewhat when it becomes obvious that, as several Instagram commenters pointed out, the piece may have actually increased in value after being shredded. I sincerely doubt that was Banksy’s intention. Not to mention that his art is already plenty commercialized, having made the journey across the sea to mass production in China – not sanctioned by him, obviously, but impossible to ignore. You can buy stencils to recreate his artwork for yourself, either on the streets of your hometown or on your hip teenage son’s birthday card. The possibilities are endless.

Banksy surely likes attention (as do most artists), and he knows how to get it. I suppose that, if nothing else, he’s managed to assert his presence in a new arena, that being the art sale. But I’d be wary about bidding on anything else he offers up for auction. Who knows? It could blow up in your face. Literally.

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