Photographer Tyler Shields is quite literally under fire for incinerating and chainsawing an Hermès bag worth $100,000, taking photographs of the destroyed croc-skin purse, and calling it art. Shields says “destruction is a beautiful version of freedom” but has it gone too far?
There was a lot of negative feedback on the Birkin artworks by photographer Tyler Shields and his girlfriend Francesca Eastwood, daughter of actor/director Clint Eastwood. The photos show a red crocodile skin Birkin bag from the French luxury brand Hermès being bitten by Eastwood, ruined with a chainsaw, doused with gasoline, and set on fire.
The coveted it-bag can cost as much as a car or low-cost home, depending on the leather, hardware, and other custom details. On his website, Shields captions: “Watch this bag get destroyed IT IS INSANE! Destruction is a beautiful version of freedom… Would you want this bag? Are you sad to see me destroy it?” Over 800 comments have been left on his website alone; some admire the output of his fashion annihilation, but most detest his blatant display of wealth misspent.
The photographs have prompted rage from all corners of the Internet. “Go and work for a living and see if you burn a 100k bag. Hell you wouldnt even be burning a 50 dollar bag. That is NOT art losers,” posted one user on Shields’ website. Many users were upset, pointing out that the money could have gone to someone in need.
That was not the first time Shields incinerated a high-end designer item. Earlier this year, he documented the demise of a pair of Christian Louboutin heels (approximately $1,000) by sawing the shoes in half then setting them on fire. One photo shows Eastwood posing with half a shoe, acting like she wants to taste it, but she claims she only participated “for art’s sake.”
In response to the raging rants from netizens, Shields announced that he would donate $100,000 to a family in need for every purchase of the artworks. “If somebody wants to buy one of the Birkin photos, I will donate $100,000—not to a charity—but to a family. I will give one family in need $100,000 cash.”
While “derelict art” is not new, it is often associated with controversy, especially if it concerns high-value items being deliberately reduced to ashes. Countless successful art pieces come from this category—some might consider film soups and soaks part of this subgenre—but when is too much too much? We’ve seen cameras being shot with bullets and books being cut up, but they’re not nearly as audacious and theatrical as Shield’s and Eastwood’s feat.
His latest project is his new novel Richest Man, featuring a burning $100 bill on the cover, held by actress Emma Roberts. Clearly, money is no object for Shields.