British street artist Banksy has pulled off his latest prank, self-destructing one of his most iconic artworks moments after it fetched more than a £1 million at auction in London.
“Girl with Balloon” had just sold at Sotheby’s for £1,042,000 ($1.4 million, €1.2 million) — a joint record for the maverick artist — on October 5 when it unexpectedly passed through a shredder hidden in the frame, according to the auction house.
“It appears we just got Banksy-ed,” said Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s head of contemporary art for Europe, in a press release accompanied by photos of the bizarre episode.
“The unexpected incident became instant art world folklore and certainly marks the first time in auction history that a work of art automatically shredded itself after coming under the hammer,” the auctioneers added in the statement.
It is unclear whether Sotheby’s, which could not be immediately reached for further comment on October 6, had prior knowledge of the stunt.
Banksy, a mysterious artist from Bristol, southwest England, rose to fame painting clandestine street murals, typically simple graffiti stencils with a sharp political point, all over the world. He has also produced a treasure trove of other kinds of images, and his works have sold for hundreds of thousands of pounds in many cases.
The price paid in London on October 5 evening matched the artist’s previous record at auction for his “Keep It Spotless” piece in 2008, Sotheby’s said.
Prior to its shredding, the framed “Girl with Balloon” — spray paint and acrylic on canvas mounted on board — depicted a girl reaching out toward a bright red, heart-shaped balloon. It was instantly recognisable as a Banksy to anyone familiar with his work.
The artist posted a photo of the stunt, midway through shredding, on his Instagram page early on Octobner 6, above the caption: “going, going, gone”, imitating an auctioneer.
Banksy’s Girl With Red Balloon mysteriously shreds following its sale at Sotheby’s London