“Girl with Balloon” had just sold at Sotheby’s for £1,042,000 (S$1,890,000) – a joint record for the maverick artist – on Friday 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 Saturday, 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 Friday 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 Saturday, above the caption: “going, going, gone”, imitating an auctioneer.
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