What’s a purse when you’ve got money to burn? Francesca Eastwood and her photographer boyfriend, Tyler Shields, are facing a firestorm after producing a series of artworks in which they take a red crocodile Hermès Birkin handbag — versions of which sell for $100,000 — slash it with a chainsaw and light it on fire.
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.
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Shields, for his part, appeared eager to fan the flames at first. “Are you sad to see me destroy it?” he taunted on his Web page, linking to another series of photographs in which he burned a pair of $500 Christian Louboutin shoes. Eastwood claimed she participated in the photos in the “name of art.”
In response to the outpouring of vitriol (and reported death threats, according to Grazia), Shields backed down, sort of, announcing he would donate $100,000 to a family in need — but only if the photos were sold.
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.
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Birkins can retail for over $100,000, depending on the materials and specific bag. Eastwood, a model and actress, regularly appears on the E! reality show Mrs. Eastwood & Company, which showcases her mother’s attempt to manage a boy band.
Erica Ho is a contributor at TIME and the editor of Map Happy. Find her on Twitter at @ericamho and Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.