Last Wednesday the anonymous British graffiti artist known as ‘Banksy’ sold a few prints at an auction in Paris. This is notable mainly because of what didn’t happen: the last time Banksy art was sold (earlier this month) it self-destructed only moments after the gavel went down on a bid of over a million British pounds. Banksy had installed a shredder inside the frame, which was remotely activated as soon as the sale was complete. It sounds a bit like the stuff of spy movies, and certainly was a first for the art world. Or was it?
It’s true that it had never happened at an auction before. But outside the auction halls, it’s actually quite common. Take a walk down the street from the now-embarrassed Sotheby’s in London, and before long you’ll find yourself in Hyde Park. One of the city’s large Royal Parks, Hyde Park boasts a beautiful variety of autumn colour this time of year. In other words, a profusion of striking colours fill the air with beauty as an entire natural gallery begins to transform, without any need for remote activation, in a synchronised rhythm of mass self-destruction.
Take a walk through the park, and you’ll hear the satisfying crunch of Autumn under your feet. Bring a magnifying glass with you and marvel at the intricate design of millions of tiny cells, each containing libraries of design plans stored in organic memory more sophisticated than any device Silicon Valley has produced, boasting internal machines with the power to convert raw sunlight into energy more efficiently than any solar panel. All of these engineering marvels are spread on eye-catching canvasses with a wide variety of symmetrical shapes and blazing colours, and some of them have found their way into your shoe. You crush them under your feet as the trees release more into the breeze with a similarly careless disregard. All over this half of the world, billions more trees are releasing billions more leaves in a wanton self-destructive shower of ticker tape, not even caring if anyone is there to appreciate their dying display or jump in the gathered piles of art that used to hang in their lofty galleries.
When God creates art, he is anything but sparing. He spreads it far and wide, covering the earth not merely in repeated prints but in billions of fantastically unique originals, and then destroys them in seemingly heedless abandon, gathering their decaying canvasses into the soil to give nutrients to a new generation of art ready to burst out in Spring. You don’t have to go to exclusive auction houses or pay a million pounds to enjoy it – the art is growing in profusion all around you, all free, all given for your daily enjoyment by the greatest Master the art world will ever know.
Banksy was original, but not as original as the leaf in your shoe.