How to Insure Your Art Collection . . . Even When It Shreds Itself

Onlookers Observe Banksy Art Piece Being Shredded

How to Insure Your Art Collection . . . Even When It Shreds Itself

The day is October 5, 2018. It’s a normal fall day in London, England, at Sotheby’s Auction. Up on the auction block is world-renowned street artist Banksy’s “Girl with Balloon” originally created in 2006.

Framed in an elaborate golden frame, the piece is hung on the wall while the bidding commences. Unbeknownst to the gallery of people attending the auction, Banksy himself is in attendance. You see, while several people have their theories, the identity of Banksy has never been officially revealed, making his attendance yet another sly move on the artist’s part. So how did everyone know Banksy was in attendance? That realization came for everyone after the auctioneer’s gavel hit the block and pronounced to the room that “Girl with Balloon” had just sold for $1.4 million.

The moment the gavel hit the block, the unthinkable happened. After his own art piece sold for over a million dollars, Banksy remotely activated a shredder he had hidden in the art piece’s frame. The piece began scrolling downwards as long, cut strips of the canvas began to appear under the frame. As Banksy stopped the art being shredded at about halfway, Alex Branczik, Senior Director and Head of Contemporary Art, Europe London, declared, “It appears we just got Banksy-ed.”


Banksy took to Instagram shortly after to post a video of the shredding himself saying, “Going, going, gone . . . .” Not only had the auction house been “Banksy-ed,” but the masked artist had been in the room the whole time. The event was clearly unprecedented, and to quote the Sotheby’s auction themselves: “The unexpected incident became instant art world history and certainly marks the first time in auction history that a work of art automatically shredded itself after coming under the hammer.”

Of course, the follow-up question to this is, “So what happened? Did the buyer get her money back? Did she or the auction house sue Banksy? Was the art piece insured?!” I wondered these exact same questions and decided to do a bit of research. As Forbes writes in a follow-up article to the most expensive shredding in history:
“Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s head of contemporary art in Europe, summed it up immediately, as the painting was being carted off by two white-gloved Sotheby’s handlers: ‘It appears we just got Banksy-ed.’

“Thankfully for the auction house, the buyer felt that too, but in an extremely positive way, and chose to love what the artist had done to the work in the first few seconds of her ownership, before she had taken possession of it. Whether intentional or unintentional, a smart move. The market itself reacted with great positive speed, with some experts predicting a huge spike in the value of the $1.4-million sale price.”

Taking ownership of the partial destruction of the artwork, Banksy agreed to the new title of the artwork suggested by its new owner, now calling it, “Love is in the Bin.”

Despite all parties being on good terms at the elaborate prank, Salome Verrell, Senior Lecturer at The University of Law, confirmed that Banksy had, in fact, broken the law. Verrell stated that:

“Under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 S57(2): A sale by auction is complete when the auctioneer announces its completion by the fall of the hammer, or in other customary manner; and until the announcement is made any bidder may retract his bid.

When Banksy shredded the painting, he was damaging someone else’s property, and he did so intentionally and knowing that it belonged to someone else.”

Regardless, there were no charges pressed on Banksy, and it paid off for the owner.

Three years later, almost to the day, Banksy’s half shredded newly titled “Love is in the Bin” sold at the same auction house at Sotheby’s for $25.4 million, making the artwork over eighteen times its original value. A worthwhile investment and one that you can guarantee was insured for the three years its first owner held possession of it, and even more so now.

Do You Need to Insure Your Art Collection?

While the original owner more than likely had a clause in her insurance policy that would cover the Banksy piece under immediate ownership, before it could be officially added to the policy, it does bring up some worthwhile questions for your own art collection. How do you insure your art collection? Is your art insured the moment the gavel hits the block? What if a world-renowned street artist hides a secret shredder inside the piece of art you just bought and shreds half of it? While the last of those is highly unlikely, at Tower Street Insurance we’re here to help protect your art collection at every stage of ownership.

Whether it is modern street art from the likes of Banksy or KAWS or a modern painting from Picasso or O’Keeffe, we can help you protect your art collection. We’ll work with you to protect your collection by helping you secure a valuables or collections policy.

Various Art Prints From Artist KAWS

Do Home or Renters Insurance Cover Art Collections?


While most home or renters insurance policies provide some coverage, they more than likely will not cover the full cost of your collection, especially if it is over $100,000. A valuable or collections policy will give you the peace of mind you need as you prepare to buy that next piece for your collection. We’ll even work with you to make sure your policy has you covered for new pieces of art for a certain amount of days before you’re able to officially add it to your policy.

Reach Out to Us Today to Insure Your Art Collection and Valuables!


Our passion is protecting your passion.

Contact us today for a complimentary assessment of your current coverage to see if your art collection, as well as your personal and business property, has the coverage it needs.

Contact our team here at Tower Street Insurance or call (469) 788-8893 today.



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