Banksy’s Barely Believable Batteries

Nearly a decade ago my friend [Dru] gave me an unforgettable tour late at night of Stokes Croft, the inner suburb of Bristol known at the time for its counterculture and artistic scene. It’s a place dominated by building-sized graffiti and murals, and it has a particular association with the Bristolian street artist [Banksy]. If you’ve not seen a Banksy in the wild, the place to do it is by Bristol Saturday night street lighting to the sound of passing revelers and traffic on the A38.

[Banksy] is famous aside from his anonymity, for his pranks upon the art world. The (real) elephant in the room or the Dismalland theme park are his stock in trade, and you may have seen another prank of his in the news in the last day. One of his paintings, the 2006 Girl With A Balloon sold at auction for over a million quid, and as the gavel fell a hidden shredder in the picture frame sprang into life and partially shredded the canvas. The report suggests that a number of [Banksy]’s associates were present at the event, and that one of them was detained with a device that might have been a remote control trigger for the shredder. The quote from Sotheby’s Europe head of Contemporary Art, [Alex Branczik] says it all: “We got Banksy’d”.

The interior of the Banksy shredder frame, taken from a frame of the video.
The interior of the Banksy shredder frame, taken from a frame of the video.

[Banksy]’s cool and all that, but where’s the hack? The artist briefly put up a video with a few details, but aside from showing us a row of craft knife blades and a tantalizing but fleeting glimpse of a few equipment enclosures, it’s short on technical details. We can see what appears to be at least one motor, and those white boxes may be batteries, but that’s it.

This hasn’t stopped some fevered speculation as to how the feat was achieved. A home-made shredder would require a significant amount of readily available power, and since this one has seemingly lain undetected within the frame since 2006, that power source needs to have possessed both exceptional  energy density and retention. We can’t imagine many consumer grade batteries in 2018 being able to retain a charge for twelve years, so how on earth did he do it? Our best guess is that a primary battery was involved, as anyone who has found a neglected Duracell in a box of electronics from their youth will tell you it’s not unknown for decent quality alkaline cells to live well beyond their shelf lives, and other chemistries are specifically designed with that property in mind. Even so, for the cells to power a receiver circuit in standby for so long would certainly tax their capabilities, so it has also been suggested that a concealed switch could have been flipped by a [Banksy] accomplice during the viewing phase to activate the system. There are still so many unanswered questions that it’s certainly piqued our technical curiosity. Sadly we don’t know [Banksy] to ask him how he did it, but we welcome speculation both informed and otherwise in the comments.

Our own [Joe Kim]'s tribute to the work in question.
Our own [Joe Kim]’s tribute to the work in question.
Meanwhile the piece itself lies half shredded and protruding from the base of the frame. On the face of it that’s ruined the painting as an artwork, but of course this is a Banksy. Normal rules seem not to apply, so the notoriety it has received will no doubt mean that its shredded remains are an artwork in themselves, and possibly even one worth more.

Banksy owners worldwide are no doubt now paying a huge amount more attention to the artist’s frames than previously, but Hackaday readers need not worry. Our London Unconference logo and stickers featured a [Joe Kim] homage to the Banksy in question, which we can guarantee does not incorporate an artist’s shredder.

 

138 thoughts on “Banksy’s Barely Believable Batteries

    1. Artist has shill set winning bid, no matter the price. No worries of litigious reaction. “Anonymous” buyer then has buyers remorse, and re-auctions the piece for an order of magnitude profit and additional attention.

    2. Banksy
      As an art restorer and conservator who has worked for both Sotherby and Christies on very many contemporary art objects over a number of years, I know that this work would have been fully inspected, had photographs taken and condition reports made by the auction house experts prior to the sale. For this to work as seen, the frame would have had to have a slot in the bottom frame section for the work to eject from, and this slot, however fine, would be fully apparent to any conservator, catalog photographer or department expert. I also question the use of scaple blades set up as they apparently were, to be an efficient and reliable cutting medium. The mechanism would have had to use at least one roller, an electric motor ( but possibly spring driven clockwork) and a remote control of some kind to trigger the device. My opinion, based on what I have seen on the various media, is that this was a very simple “Trick” device of the kind used by stage magicians and special effect departments.
      Whoever did this was a great exponent of the shock tactic however, so I applaud him or her who worked this one out, – and quite probably with the full knowledge of the saleroom, – as a wonderful exponent of conceptual art.
      I think that on seeing the video of this, I could probably replicate the effect fairly easily using a simple device and a little lateral thinking.
      I would love to inspect this work myself, and expect that all will be revealed soon.

  1. This is exactly what I was thinking when this first popped up a couple days ago. Looking at the pics it the battery packs look just like some D-Cell lithium primary packs I have, 4-5 cells in series gives 12-15v. They easily have a 10-20 year shelf life. That leaves the second question, how to keep the receiver from draining the batteries after all those years. Heck, that may be why it only partially shedded the picture.

    1. Make the wireless receiver with two modes. A slow scan that fires up every few minutes to preserve battery life until a wake up signal is sent and a fast scan every few seconds for the final event. For the shredder power source a spring with mechanical governor for excellent shelf life and reliability.

          1. Except by the owner or failing that Christie’s well-paid staff, cleaning crews, transporters, fruitbats, oragutans, breakfast cereals etc.
            It was never really shredded anyway. It was just a set of rollers that sent the painting around into the frame. The shreds are pre-done and were spit out the bottom. Way less mA required. It will sell twice. The prestige.

      1. With an “expected autonomy time” of years to decades, I’d put the whole thing in “deep sleep” and only wakeup every hour or so to scan for “wakeup” signals. Once you get the wakeup, you go into “standby” mode, scanning much more often. Still it’d be a challenge to get things to still work after 12 years.
        Even if the batteries still work, if I was Banksky, I’d still be searching for the remote I built 12 years ago….

    2. The simplest explaination is often the best: there’s an accomplice who turned the device on before the auction.

      All you need is a piece of string pulling a piece of paper off between spring contacts.

    3. A possible theory
      1. When watching the video you see that the auctioneer appears to press a button directly after the gavel coming down. This would mean Christie’s was possibly in on it, and it was the auctioneer who actually activated it.

      2. A reason for Christie’s to be in on it may be that the artwork, the frame, and the shredder are all part of the piece of art. This would explain why the bottom of the shredded area is curled as it was pre-fed into the shredder, and if inspected by Christie’s would not be a concern, and why it stopped halfway not shredding the entire painting as the point was to keep part of it intact. This would also explain why Christie’s would not be concerned with the shredder exit slot.

      3. If there actually was a previous owner, they too would have known that this was all part of purchasing the piece and they would have been told not to change the frame because the bottom of the painting was pre-fed into a shredder and that batteries would need to be inspected prior to an auction.

      4. Banksy said he secretly built the frame to shred the painting if it ever went up for sale, he never said the secret would be kept from everyone.

      5. So if true, it would essentially be an evolving piece of art, not destroying one.

      6. It is also possible that instead of a shredder, there may have been a pre-shredded separate painting that exits at the bottom, still leaving Christie’s to activate and the previous owner to be in the know to allow for inspecting batteries prior to auction.

      1. UPDATE POINT 1
        The auctioneer presses a button to end the internet auction at the same time as the gavel hitting the table. Only the auctioneer can close an active auction, and therefore has to end the online auction at the same time.

    1. ” Also knives are pointing the wrong way.”

      Not sure about that. It would depend on the paper path. And also the state of completion of the frame seen in the video. Perhaps additional paper guides or pressure plates were installed off-camera.

      1. Correction: having viewed the video again, I see that the blades are pointed to the side relative to the painting. I don’t think there’s any paper path that would obtain the clean straight cuts seen in the video.

        I conclude that it’s a pre-shredded copy, unless the behind the scenes video is a fake.

        1. On the other hand, it seems like it would be difficult to keep the strips so straight during transport and hanging and while passing through a roller.

          Hm. It’s a very fine kerf on those cuts. You can hardly tell it’s been cut into strips. Perhaps the painting was always half shredded, but held together in such a way that the slits weren’t visible until the shredded portion exited the frame.

          I’d also note that the paper in the frame looks like it’s in front of the plane of the paper emerging from the bottom of the frame. That could be because of the paper path on the way to and through the shredder. Or perhaps rollers drew the painting into a middle chamber of the frame, while a half-shredded dummy painting was rolled out from a rear chamber.

          1. One thing that puzzles me is how the top part of the painting seems to far down in respect to the part sticking out of the frame? Might just be the rollers used that makes the paper appear shorter, but I also thought about the real intact painting being hidden inside? Banksy is libel for this, so it might just be a fake stunt to prove a point, and not a set-up to put a warrant on his head.

          2. > it would be difficult to keep the strips so straight during transport and hanging and while passing through a roller.

            Hmm, not really – it could’ve been lightly sandwiched between two sheets of card or plastic to hold it in shape, and just pulled out from that.

    2. I was thinking this for the knifes as well. But if you would zig-zag the picture around the knifes, it might work. As this is a one time thing, and not a normal shredder, more preparation could have been done.

      1. He’s an artist, not an engineer. It’s not about what is easiest or maximally effective, it’s about making a statement–which would be empty if the original painting was still intact. That’s the actual painting being shredded. You can see there’s a few inches of extra canvas at the bottom that is deformed by being pre-fed into the roller. I’m betting the bottom was installed already fed into the mechanism, the cut started perhaps manually to ensure that all the knives are getting a good bite. And light canvas isn’t stiff and inflexible like paper, it would happily curl around the sideways blades as they cut.

    3. As an artist, that’s very unlikely. It would destroy the meaning of the shredding, which is essentially performance artwork.
      Unless Banky’s playing a double trick, and once it’s resold for a higher value, it’s revealed that the painting is in fact intact, with the hope that this destroys the “cool” factor of the shredded artwork story.
      But I think it’s more likely that this is a single trick.

  2. OK, so I can see 3 fairly reasonable measures to have a go at this:
    1) Use lithium thionyl chloride batteries. They easily hold charge for over 10 years and can supply quite high currents when required. Those white blobs might be batteries.
    2) An RF receiver would chew up the batteries if it were left on. So I would have it sleep lots and only wake occasionally (once every few hours?).
    3) For maximum drama, you need instant action on the shredder. So I would add an ‘on your marks’ command to the unit that would be sent before the auction. This would put the device into hot standby for instant shredding. (And also draw some current to eat away the passivation layer in preparation for shredding current.)

    Of course, I would have made the shred run to completion, because it’s a shredder, dang it. And maybe make the shredding disappear into the frame. But I am not an artist, and that wouldn’t leave a great artwork afterwards. I think it’s no accident that the shredder only went half way.

    1. LiSOCl2 batteries have the capacity, but explode if you try to draw too much current from them. Thus things like OFO hire bikes that use them have a big supercapacitor to dump the power. I’m not sure 2006s supercaps were cheap, small, or particularly good.

      1. Sure, but that’s why you spec the battery based on current (and end up with excess capacity) rather than speccing it for capacity (and too little current).
        LiSOCL2 D-cells with spiral construction are available with rated continuous current of ~2A, at which point the voltage sags to ~3.2V for ~6.4W — stack as many as needed to deliver the required power. Sure, they’ll have tons of “wasted” capacity (they’d last 2h at that rate), but that just means more years of standby for your radio receiver.

  3. I can never get enough Banksy stuff. Watching people go nuts over a one-tone spray painted stencil is hilarious…

    I can get SEEN or KASE2 or Odeith to do something on canvas and sign it for pennies on the dollar..

      1. If it was just a hoax, and they were careful, then no one would have a claim to have been harmed by this, but If it was as it appears, an operative with a remote partially destroying the painting _after_ it was sold without the auction house’s or bidders’ consent, then the legal issues could be many.

        It probably doesn’t matter, whether the act enriched the owner. Especially since some of that harm would hinge on whether the bidders paid to be there. They usually do, and whether Sotherby’s was in on the stunt, and is still owed for the auction itself.

        Bidders’ pay a lot to get into auctions. Varies a bit, but it’s probably at least several hundred per bidder. (EG a classic car auction. Had nothing near 1 million $s, but it was $250 just to get in the door & get a catalogue!)

        Sotherby’s charges 20% on that winning bid. So if they weren’t in on the game, they’d want their $280,000, not including extra fees. That would be a very expensive prank, and they or their insurance would probably seek restitution. Just that alone makes me think it must have been a hoax.

        1. The artwork wasn’t destroyed. The shredder system was part of the art. And while the artwork is in custody of the auction house, they are the ones responsible, so they can forget claiming the 20% fee.

        2. Because this is art, and because the shredding bit was fully intended by the artist, I actually think you would be hard pressed to actually argue a case in favor of paying out to the auction house/bidder, regardless of whether or not the whole thing was set up. You would have to prove that the painting itself was a separate “art” from what Banksy intended (an art piece that involved the painting being shredded after the winning bid) and/or that the auction house made it explicitly clear that they were selling the painting itself, not the rest of the piece.

          This would be difficult to do without setting an alarming precedent about art and its ownership as a piece of IP. Even if you could argue the latter, that may well not be enough to get a favorable ruling.

    1. I don’t see how legal action would even work.The shredder was inside that frame since 2006. The only ones that can be sued are the auction house that didn’t inspect the item, or forgot to mention that there it an opening on the bottom of the frame, that looks like the backside of a a shredder.

      In any case the new owner has not lost anything, if not else, the piece of art has already doubled in value, because even the frame now is part of the piece of art.

      1. Not sure of British law, but in Canada, the artist retains copyright and control of a work after the sale. The “owner” only retains the work and the right to retain it, but not make changes.

        If it’s the same in Britain, then the artist can still make changes to the work without fear of litigation.

  4. I must admit that I laughed with satisfaction when I saw the news of this; just the thought of this millionaire seen his money quite literally being shredded, brought a nice warm feeling inside me. This feeling quite quickly vanished when I realised that with that surprise half shredding action, that piece of art has probably doubled its value.

    It’s funny how we resent people who have £1m to spend on a piece of art, and that we feast on their misfortunes when things go wrong for them. I often have the feeling that these pieces of art, are bought not so much for their artistic value, but simply because they are a unique item, that nobody else can buy, and that can be shown off to fellow millionaires, just to boost their ego.

    1. Plus, Banksy started off as a street artist. The picture that was sold was just a reintroduction of something he painted on a wall years ago, and he’s mentioned before about how it’s annoyed him when other people have profited off his work.
      The Banksy in Stokes Croft doesn’t belong to anyone, but everyone can view it (here, it’s looking a bit worse for wear these days). imo that’s how it should be.

  5. hmm… interesting.
    I do have a suggestion how you could make a receiver that listens continuously but has low power.
    First you want a receiver that uses no power at all, so you switch it of, completely, and make it only wake up once a day (or week) to listen for a certain signal, that signal would be the arming signal. When the arming signal is received, the receiver goes into a more active state where it listens continuously for the trigger signal to start the shredding.
    There is plenty of time for the arming signal to be send as the auction will be notified weeks in advance of the auction. So with some careful preparation the arming signal is send during the moments where the artwork is displayed (viewing days before the actual auction). Now with the circuit armed it will respond to the trigger signal at any desired moment in time with only a negligible delay.

    Well that’s only when RF is used, there could also be a setup where the artwork is completely off and a hidden switch of some kind is flipped by somebody with access to the artwork. The switch can be hidden and be activated with magnets or perhaps a switch is connected to the “hook” or “wire” that is used to hang the picture on the wall.
    If the picture is hung (and the switch is activated) the receiver would listen for a few days and after that it switches of the receiver. However this requires the artwork to be hung on the wall during the action (if it was placed on a stand it would be a problem (unless there is also a switch).

    But I’m sure there are many other ways to achieve this. If this was in a hollywood movie they would most certainly have used a wrapped antenna in the frame and a microwave transmitter on the other side of the room, beaming the energy to the painting. And I’m also very sure that the security noticed this and stopped them “just in time” and therefore the picture “was only” shredded for a small portion.

    However, the way the knifes are mounted, I doubt if the picture was really shredded.
    But it doesn’t matter how he/she/they did it, it is a great joke and statement.

    1. Considering that no one spotted the great big opening at the bottom of the frame where the shredded paper comes out , I would not be surprised that there is also a big switch that powers up the radio receiver.
      If we go back to the 2006 technology, achieving low power was not an easy task back then, additionally, I don’t believe that as an artist Banksy doesn’t have that level of expertise to do that, but I may be wrong.
      I strongly believe that he just used one of those cheap garage door remotes, and an external switch to power the lot up. Cheap, easy, and most importantly, reliable.

      1. “achieving low power in 2006 not an easy task” huh?!??! (perhaps you are confused with 1906)
        Since the 80’s we’ve all played with very low power circuits, like clocks running of potatoes and nails. But the real thing about low power and advanced functionality/communications is nothing more then being able to switch of the most consuming part of your circuit and enabling it only when you need it (the RF circuitry).

        I cannot judge about the abilities of the artist and if therefore a garage door opener was the only way that he/she/they could make it work. Cheap easy and mostly reliable, well… why cheap, why easy, those are merely assumptions. Banksy may have or may have not the expertise to pull this off, I’m pretty sure that he’d be able to find people who do have the expertise… why not?

        1. With regard to Banksy being able to find people who have the expertise to pull this off: Bristol is a University town. The town and wider area also has a very high concentration of engineers, including aerospace engineers. Major employers include BAE Systems which is one of the world’s leading global defence, security and aerospace companies. Therefore I would suggest that Banksy lives in an ideal place to obtain some high grade electronics expertise.

          With regard to the knife blades: The blades to me look like hospital scalpel blades, which as many have said, are oddly mounted sideways, which does not really make sense if you were as a hobbyist/hacker setting out to build your own painting-shredder with a roller that pulled the painting past the blades. They would at least be sharp though. There are a number of big hospitals in Bristol although you can easily buy these blades for model making knives. I am also thinking here of the Leonardo Da Vinci “tank” drawing with gears that clearly would have made the wheels turn in opposite directions. Were they both having a little joke only engineering types would spot? In the video the shredded painting does appear to emerge from a place well behind the location of the original supporting the suggestion that while the original was being partly rolled up, the shredded version was simultaneously being rolled out.

          I hope some hobbyists set out to build their own versions so we can all see what mechanisms work best. School science fair project perhaps?

      2. “Considering that no one spotted the great big opening at the bottom of the frame”

        To be fair the frame appears to be designed somewhat to camouflage the slot. I wouldn’t be surprised if nobody noticed it, because during transportation and hanging they’d probably be most focused on not damaging the painting itself. The bottom of the frame, and particularly the bit behind a protruberant ridge, might not get much attention.

      3. Low power was not easy back then? Huh? I own a clock with a DCF77-receiver which I bought in 2002. It still runs on the same single AA non-alkaline (and non-lithium!) battery I bought it with and faithfully shows the time on the LCD. It switches on the receiver to listen for the DCF-77 signal at least twice a day and cost me less than $10.

        So, no, low power wasn’t a problem in 2006 and lithium batteries (the primary kind) hold their charge a long time.

    2. “or perhaps a switch is connected to the “hook” or “wire” that is used to hang the picture on the wall.”

      That’d be an easy way. After the frame is hung, it could listen for further instructions for, say, a week. That could be set off by some mechanism attached to the hook or cord on the frame. Or they could use a tilt switch arranged to trigger when the frame is moved away from vertical (ie, tilted when moved).

    3. That’s a really good idea about having the picture hanger function as a switch. In the photo when they take it off the wall you can see they hung it using a French cleat, which would conceal a switch far more easily than a bracket or wire that most of us hang picture frames with. You could even make the back panel slide and spring-load it so that the slit the shredded canvas emerges from only opens when you put weight on the cleat, so nobody notices it with a casual glance at the back.

      It probably has been on display a small fraction of the time it has been sitting in storage. Pretty clever idea, I wonder if that’s how it was done?

  6. take a look at the deformation of the shedded part: as if it has sat round a roller for a while. Why not have one long bit of paper with 2 copies of the picture, the bottom one pre-shredded. Then you use the roller to push/pull the shredded bit out of the bottom while the top image gets drawn around another couple of rollers, guiding it out of sight.

    1. “take a look at the deformation of the shedded part: as if it has sat round a roller for a while”

      If you look at the picture pre-shredding, you’ll see that the deformed portion wasn’t visible within the frame. The girl’s feet in the painting were quite close to the bottom edge of the paper. The bottom part of the paper could have been fed into a roller mechanism during framing, in order to ensure a good feed into the shredder.

    2. Why not? Because that would ruin the whole purpose of the piece if the new owner could just get the painting out and stick it in a different frame. Sure, it would be much simpler, but we’re thinking about it like engineers–clinically, as a mere problem to be solved instead of the statement it makes.

    1. Just what I was thinking, inside the bottom drag roller is a loooong coil spring with a governor and a latch. Now the latch could be operated via a very small dc motor on a worm drive so it has tremendous mechanical advantage and thus even a very weak battery will be enough to undo the latch releasing the spring which then pulled the art paper through a comb of exacto knives. The spring could store the wound up energy for a loooong time and a tilt switch activates the receiver for a hour once in a blue moon like this auction. So all that is required is batteries with a very very very low self discharge.

  7. its a shame they didn’t get a video of it. surely the auction house was in on it? I’m no artist, but I think the amount of shredding is just about right, value will definitely go up.

  8. A coiled torsion spring like those found inside old mechanical clocks could be the main power source for running the painting through the shredder. The batteries could be used just for the standby receiver and triggering a mechanism that unlocks the spring.
    The question that remains is whether it is possible for Sotheby’s to have the painting for all those years and never ask themselves why it is in a so heavy and thick frame. Nobody had access to an x-ray examination machine?

  9. I heard it got certified by Pest Control, Banksys “agency”. Maybe they put in a new battery then. It’s all very suspicious though, it really looks like a publicity stunt.

    1. I mean one could make the argument that art is by nature a publicity stunt. If you wanted to make a commentary on the fine art industry, this is a fine way to do it. Look at all the discussion it has caused.

  10. To cut the print with knives, you’d have to pull it through. But the stunt makes it look like it was pushed through. That would simply have jammed. I agree with the theory that there was a pre-shredded copy of the print rolled inside which simply unspooled. Possibly driven by a spring or weight instead of a motor; so the batteries needed only enough power to release a locking bolt. Banksy’s video of building the frame and the exacto knives spaced apart was just showing the device it was pre-shredded with.

    1. I don’t buy it. Look at the length of white space at the bottom of the shredded canvas versus the length of what’s displayed in the frame, plus how it’s crumpled back and forth like it has been in a roller for a while. There was a few centimeters of extra length at the bottom pre-fed through the knives and roller, which activated and pulled the rest of the canvas through. And if the painting was still intact and retrievable it would totally defeat the purpose of the statement. I don’t think Banksy would be satisfied with that.

  11. A few thoughts…

    1. Just because Banksy /says/ he prepared it a few years ago doesn’t mean that he /did/.

    2. The image was first created in 2006 – not this specific image up for sale.

    3. There’s no backstory about how the image came up for auction apart from the artsy.net article saying “acquired directly from the artist” in the artist’s frame – so it could have easily been prepared just before delivery to the auction house which would have likely meant a few weeks sitting around at worst.

    4. Those craft knife blades can’t have produced the neat vertical strips – they’re simply mounted on a block of wood and their orientation is completely wrong given the paper’s exit path, therefore the “shredded” image was pre-installed in the condition it came out in. The roller-kink at the bottom appears to confirm this: the /leading edge/ of the shredded part is also deformed.

    5. The sound of a shredder doesn’t mean that there /was/ a shredder.

    6. There’s no way it would have been put up for auction without at least some cursory examination of the condition and I find it very hard to accept that the “shredder” exit slot wasn’t noticed, which makes me suspect the auction house was in on the whole performance.

    7. Given the likelihood of it being prepared immediately before being sent for auction, the sleeping paper delivery mechanism is easily triggered by any number of easily available methods: a cheap RF doorbell probably being the easiest to obtain and adapt, and triggered by someone in the audience – or member of the auction house staff.

    8. I don’t believe it was triggered at /precisely/ the most effective point of the auction by either timer or sound detection: there are far too many variables to worry about.

    So yeah; pre-arranged performance art from a noted prankster.

    1. > 6. There’s no way it would have been put up for auction without at least some cursory examination of the condition and I find it very hard to accept that the “shredder” exit slot wasn’t noticed, which makes me suspect the auction house was in on the whole performance.

      BINGO. Silly that none of the stories I’ve read so far have talked about this. It’s a world-famous auction house that deals in ludicrously famous and expensive art. They don’t just take it as-is and then sell it.

      FURTHERMORE, for items this expensive, the qualified potential bidders themselves get to inspect the item they intend to bid on!

      The whole thing is silly once you consider these basic art-world facts.

      1. Ted Hayes says:
        > It’s a world-famous auction house that deals in ludicrously famous and expensive art. They don’t just take it as-is and then sell it.
        > FURTHERMORE, for items this expensive, the qualified potential bidders themselves get to inspect the item they intend to bid on!
        > The whole thing is silly once you consider these basic art-world facts.

        I entirely agree. Trying to frame (ha-ha) this as an unpredicted “whoops, we were Banksy’d – what jolly japes” event is just silly.

        Also I’ve never seen any auction house handle an item up for sale without gloves – until now, and this is especially odd for something which would be expected to sell for a fortune.
        Nah, the auction house was in on the event from the start.

    2. Lungfish is right on the money. This is an ancient magic trick where a blank piece of paper is passed between rollers and emerges as a bank note. Of course the bank note is already in the “machine” which is actually a piece of material rolled in opposite directions on the rollers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hc8siEPd9GA. Banksy would insist the art was really shredded to make a statement? Think about this: Banksy pulled a prank within a prank fooling the “man” not once, but twice. Yes, Sotheby’s was in on it…

      1. Tim Murphy says:
        > This is an ancient magic trick where a blank piece of paper is passed between rollers and emerges as a bank note. Of course the bank note is already in the “machine” which is actually a piece of material rolled in opposite directions on the rollers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hc8siEPd9GA

        Exactly. That YouTube video demonstrates how easily it can be done, with a trivial amount of power involved – and here’s another which pulls the trick apart (skip to 1:15 for the reveal): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qvh8RzU4EgM
        This would also answer any questions about how the shredded image kept its shape, stashed inside the frame.

    3. 1. When watching the video you see that the auctioneer appears to press a button directly after the gavel coming down. This would mean Christie’s was possibly in on it, and it was the auctioneer who actually activated it.
      2. A reason for Christie’s to be in on it may be that the artwork, the frame and the shredder are all part of the piece of art. This would explain why the bottom of the shredded area is curled as it was pre-fed into the shredder, and if inspected by Christie’s would not be a concern, and why it stopped halfway not shredding the entire painting as the point was to keep part of it intact. This would also explain why Christie’s would not be concerned with the shredder exit slots.
      3. If there actually was a previous owner, they too would have known that this was all part of purchasing the piece and they would have been told not to change the frame because the bottom of the painting was pre-fed into a shredder and that batteries would need to be inspected prior to an auction.
      4. Banksy said he secretly built the frame to shred the painting if it ever went up for sale, he never said the secret would be kept from everyone.
      5. So if true, it would essentially be an evolving piece of art, not destroying it.

      1. The auctioneer presses a button to end the internet auction at the same time as the gavel hitting the table. Only the auctioneer can close an active auction, and therefore has to end the online auction at the same time.

    1. Ha, do you want the entire world to become a line at the TSA? It’s possible to hide “something worse” in almost anything and have it go undetected in most of the places we spend our lives. We aren’t safe because of security, we’re safe because the overwhelming majority of people aren’t saboteurs and mad bombers.

    2. Sotheby’s can’t exactly remain in business tearing apart unique items and rare antiquities looking for concealed explosives and whatnot. And there wouldn’t be much point in taking on the expense of putting everything through an MRI scanner just in case some Egyptian sarcophagus or Hollywood prop might have a bomb hidden inside by… someone.

  12. Power management would be simple – firstly a motion sensor to shut everything down if it’s not moved for a while, and a receiver with a long (tens of seconds) sleep cycle, activated by a long transmission burst to “arm” it, ready for the actual trigger. Perhaps also throw in a light sensor.
    Relative to the battery size needed to get the peak power for the motor, receiver drain would be negligible.
    But my guess is that it hadn’t been in there for anywhere near 12 years.

  13. I have Casio calculator made around 1994, and battery was never changed, still works. It’s lithium primary battery in shape of AA. It seems such batteries can be over 20 years old and still work. Not sure how is the situation with CR2 primary lithium cells, but they could be usable for such purpose.
    However in this case, if Banksy had associates at event it’s possible he also had associates in auction house and batteres were changed not so long ago.

    1. Some types of wood are quite dense. A solid wood frame of that size is quite hefty on its own. I doubt the whole shredding mechanism would add enough mass to make it too heavy to be just the frame being thick and heavy

    1. Trickle down economics. Artist takes those millions and spends on supplies and labor. And so forth, and so on. If one had more brains than money then a lot less money would exit into the economic system.

      1. Except trickle down economics have never actually set in, let alone proven to work.
        It has been the “Hush, you’ll get it eventually” for decades now.
        Just seeing people defend it is quite sad.

        Anyway, OT:
        Does the frame have a backlight?
        What is they were just smart people engineers:
        1. Make frame with back lighting and shredder inside.
        2. Make battery compartment for backlight.
        3. Let unsuspecting Sotheby’s personnel insert new batteries once in a while.
        4. Profit!

        1. “Does the frame have a backlight?”

          It doesn’t appear to. After the poster slides down it just looks like brown fiberboard or something like that in back.

          It does look kind of backlit, but I think that just might be the external lighting. The shredded part that emerges looks darker but I think that’s just because the spotlights aren’t pointed down there.

  14. this is a scam, where auction house, banksy, and the customer are all in.
    i am sure the item is worth much more now. the frame was also probably just fitted few days prior to auction.

  15. The radio side of this is easily doable even with 2006 components (CC1100 for example). A 5 second wake interval would allow for an average receiver current of well under 100 microamps with an acceptably short response time. Alkaline D cells have a typical capacity in excess of 15 Ah. This alone allows for a standby time of getting on for 20 years. Alkaline cells also have the shelf life required, and a peak current capability enough to drive a motor.

    I’m not convinced it wasn’t a hoax, but it was certainly technically possible.

  16. I suspect this was do-able with 2006 technology. A good-sized Li-Mn primary cell, shelf life 10-20 years, should be able to drive Bluetooth 12+ years with thoughtful power management, and have enough power capacity to drive a motor for a few moments.

  17. Definitely a publicity stunt, and definitely a mighty good one!
    On the technical side, the blades certainly do appear to be mounted the wrong way to cut a sheet of material, no matter how you feed it through. Some here have mentioned a pre-shredded copy of the painting within the frame, and this seems quite likely to me. It would be a good way to create the publicity stunt without actually damaging the original and incurring legal/civil charges for damaging what has now become someone else’s insanely expensive artwork.
    I hope that there is a follow up to this showing how it was done.

  18. Most artist don’t work in just one medium, some use their creativity in other fields as well. The auction house had to be in on it, maybe even the buyer as well, since the publicity stunt would have raised the price on all the artist’s works. I’ve handled a few paintings, you kind of learn the weight and balance. The added components would have made the piece awkward to handle, obviously something hidden inside. A suspicious work from a known prankster, in an auction house, full of billions of dollars worth of irreplaceable items, not to mention the security of the rich folks that throw their money away. That painting would have been closely inspected, and not kept there, if not considered harmless. With all the senseless violence and destruction going on around the world, just doesn’t seem likely, that nobody there knew about this.

    People are crazy about spending money, guess it’s how some prove they are better than others. Most century old paintings from the masters, are expensive to maintain, best left to a museum. Copies can be had from many art schools, pretty cheap, and hard to tell the difference, unless you are up real close, touching it. Professional athletes are paid millions, where thousands, who are just as skill, don’t make a team. Always wondered where all those millions come from, to pay the star players, and still stay highly profitable, even for a loser team. Could be from ticket sales, or over priced beer. Think the real game, is mostly off the field, the players are so much better at the sport, just better at playing the game that pays the bills. There are a lot of talented and creative artist, most never get any public notoriety, even after death. The popular and pricey artists need to work to get the attention, work to get a name people associate with their art. It’s not always about what’s on the canvas, and unfortunately, what’s on the canvas, isn’t much these days…

    1. Why would Sotheby’s risk their reputation as a safe and reliable auction house by willingly and knowingly taking part in a prank like this? They’ll never be able to auction anything to do with Banksy ever again. I simply don’t believe they’d do that. They long term “brand image” damage to Sotheby’s is just not outweighed by the shortterm publicity gains.

  19. Ignoraous here. If he does building sized stuff, how would someone get and BOTHER to authenticate a mere framed pic. ~”Well, I got tired of big stuff, like klystrons, so I thought, why nor a lil arduino uni-bomber stuff, only, harmless, aside from the million dollar hoax aspect. Balloons go POP, I thought, so… double entendré, here we come.”

    1. Banksy doesn’t do building sized stuff. That giant art referenced in the writeup wasn’t presented as his, merely as a description of the vicinity of much of his work.

      Notoriety is Banksy’s stock in trade. A couple of years ago his identity appeared to have leaked. A member of Massive Attack seemed to inadvertently let slip that Banksy was the nom de spraycan of a bandmate. Whether it was true or a contrived stunt it made big news without even having to shake a rattly bottle. This could be a genuine shred or a hoax, either would fit Banksy’s oeuvre just as well.

      1. Depends what you mean by ‘building sized’, but the Banksy in Stokes Croft is about the size of an advertising billboard (see here). It’s not the biggest bit of art round there today (is you look left form that viewpoint you’ll see a larger one), but ten-fifteen years ago it was one of the largest single pieces in the area.
        Back when it was originally painted most graffiti would be removed pretty quickly, but as this was on a private building it stayed. (Someone did spray paint all over it, but locals cleaned it off). Once Banksy started to get well known, the council realised that it was a tourist attraction, so now they (and property owners) are a lot more forgiving of graffiti (in some places).

  20. Suprised no one else has mentionned this, but watch the video closely. The image is offset considerably to the right after it emerges from the “shredder”. The painting above is not the piece that emerges from the slot below. Also, the bottom edge is clearly defomed from having been placed around a roller (probably since it was assembled many years ago).

    Add to this the shredder “blades” are in the wrong position and wouldn’t shred anything, and it’s quite clear this is a preassembled mechanism with 2 images: one shredded, one not. I’m 99% sure this is a reversable assembly, and could be returned to the original condition with a bit of work. As such, NOTHING in this art was actually altered as part of this stunt. A fine piece of performance art, included as a component of Girl with Balloon. All this will be revealed in due time, just wait.

  21. You could have a simple mechanical motion sensor as a first stage – any time the painting is moved, then start up the radio once a minute or so, for a day, then go back to deep sleep. No need to poll periodically for the months where it’s not moving.

  22. Neat hack. Great marketing AND scathing social commentary at the same time!
    I can just picture the various people in the Art Investement Community (let’s face it, they’re probably not actually art-lovers): “Do you think it’s worth more like it is, with the half-shredded document hanging out? Or should we open up the frame and see if the original is just rolled up inside?”
    Battery-wise, doesn’t seem like a big problem. I suppose an interesting question is whether it was supposed to stop halfway like it did, or shred completely?

  23. The frame in the video either isn’t it it’s final form or the components that make the canvas appear shredded when exiting the frame are not actually visible in the video.

    The Xacto-knife style blades look like they’re actually perpendicular to the cutting direction and there’s nothing guiding the canvas through the blades, so if the frame in the video is the same frame as the one that was auctioned, the blades were probably added to make the inside of the frame look hazardous because no one would get an idea of what the components in the frame are intended to do without directing the audience’s attention to the blades.

    I think the most likely scenario is that the canvas was pre-cut and peeled off of a back layer holding the image together before rollers separate the layers before exiting the frame.

    About the batteries, Banksy, or whoever submitted the piece, could have gone to Sotheby’s a day, or even a month, before the auction and said they would like to take a last picture of their work for personal use before it would be auctioned. I don’t think anyone would suspect anything and fresh batteries could have been installed while no one was observing them.

    Like others have mentioned, the piece is probably worth more now that the framed and half-shredded version of the 2006 “Girl With a Balloon” is infamous. I expect this added performance art aspect of this piece to not only significantly add to the value of the current piece, I think future bidders will speculate and expect similar stunts that will make the pieces known throughout the world when bidding on Banksy’s work in the future, and this will increase the final hammer price.

    1. All the blades have to do is push hard against the roller which has the edge of the canvas already attached so once the spring is released (inside the roller) it pulls the canvas through and the bladed cut as best as they can. Surgically sharp …. they would easily cut through.

  24. I have D-cells that Live With Me for 15+ years and still provide Protection. I wouldn’t shed a Teardrop for the Inertia Creeps that bought this once Angel now, Dissolved Girl. I agree that the Flat of the Blade should have kept the image Safe From Harm but have Unfinished Sympathy For the ‘victim’ of this Massive Attack.

  25. All this speculation about batteries is way off the mark.

    The frame had lights built in so was required to be plugged into power for display. That then kept backup batteries charged.

  26. It would have been more funny had he used something like a clock mechanism (spring loaded) so once bought it is triggered but then the spring via massive gearing down just slloooowwwwlllyyy drags the canvas over the blades. Perhaps on the new owners wall

  27. You have to wonder why nobody noticed this “canvas” weighed 5 KG at any point in the last 12 years. In an unusually capacious and unbalanced frame.

    Obvious setup, some gallery person or Sothebys or whatever were in on it. Banksy bought the painting himself, giving Sotheby’s a fee for their part in the whole nonsense. He gets more attention, and the rest of his “art” increases in value. The bloke’s a wanker, as is everyone else in modern art. Nothing’s been said since Duchamp and even that was a stupid waste of time.

    It’s a mix of making culture even more degraded than it already was, and a “bigger fool” investment scam, and has been for decades. It makes culture seem like something for posh wankers to waste time and make money on, giving that bit more license to the theory that everything is worthless cynical shit.

    I have infinitely more respect for someone who paints some flowers that makes someone feel happy by looking at it. I have infinitely more respect for Veronika Moser, because she isn’t so much a prostitute and isn’t as full of shit.

  28. the batterie is on the right, with the red lid and JMT on it. it’s our brand, so we supplied the battery. We are a German based company, but with branches in several European countries including UK

    As I am on ofcthe directors of the parent company and also owning a Lambretta scooter with that very image on the side panel, I feel quite proud that one of our products took part in it.

    best regards

  29. I see above that the battery is identified. I wonder what the other parts are, like what’s attached to the battery.

    And what is that white thing next to the battery? It seems wrapped in white tape. (I am viewing the still on the high quality video on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iiO_1XRnMt4)

    (The marking on the cardboard says “MOTOR RECIEVER” [sic] but am not sure that makes any sense, it is rather large for a receiver?)

    The thing in the corner there, where the white wires run to, could that be a motor controller board?

    Very likely that we are not seeing the completed product though, as there is currently no route for the paper to go to the knives and exit the frame as “clean” as it did. It seems unlikely that what we see getting build is capable of doing what happened.

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