Based on experiments conducted by himself and others around his work, Banksy, the famous street artist, could write an economics dissertation on the monetary value of art. In a way, that unwritten paper could be his crowning achievement. Banksy made headlines earlier this month when, moments after a 2006 framed copy of his Girl with Balloon was auctioned at Sotheby's in London for $1.4m (R20.5m), the artwork began to self-destruct by means of a remote-controlled, mechanical paper shredder that had been built into the frame. The stunt was Banksy's latest contribution to the empirical study of the value of art. Through it, he tested the nature of demand at the high end of the market. The likely result will be that the artwork's clever partial destruction (the lower part of the picture now hangs prettily out of the frame, evenly cut into narrow strips) will only increase its value, since the happening was so public, and the stunned reactions of people in the auction room have been capt...

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