LONDON (AP) — Art prankster Banksy has struck again. An iconic work by the elusive street artist self-destructed in front of startled auction-goers on Friday, moments after being sold for 1.04 million pounds ($1.4 million).
The spray-painted canvas “Girl With Balloon” went under the hammer at Sotheby’s in London, fetching more than three times its pre-sale estimate and equaling a record price for the artist.
Then, as an alarm sounded, it ran through a shredder embedded in the frame, emerging from the bottom in strips.
A post on Banksy’s official Instagram account showed the moment — and the shocked reaction of those in the room — with the words “Going, going, gone…”
“It appears we just got Banksy-ed,” said Alex Branczik, head of contemporary European art at Sotheby’s.
One art expert assessed that the stunt would make the piece more valuable. “This is now part of art history in its shredded state and we’d estimate Banksy has added at a minimum 50% increase to it’s value,” Joey Syer, co-founder of MyArtBroker, told Britain’s Daily Mail.
The auction house said it was “in discussion about next steps” with the buyer.
“We have not experienced this situation in the past where a painting spontaneously shredded, upon achieving a record for the artist,” Branczik said. “We are busily figuring out what this means in an auction context.”
Banksy, who has never disclosed his full identity, began his career spray-painting buildings in Bristol, England, and has become one of the world’s best-known artists.
His mischievous and often satirical images include two policemen kissing, armed riot police with yellow smiley faces and a chimpanzee with a sign bearing the words “Laugh now, but one day I’ll be in charge.”
He has a penchant for elaborate pranks. In 2005, he hung an image of a spear-toting ancient human pushing a shopping cart in the British Museum, where it remained for several days before being discovered. The next year he smuggled a life-sized figure of a Guantanamo Bay detainee into Disneyland.
“Girl With Balloon,” which depicts a small child reaching up toward a heart-shaped red balloon, was originally stenciled on a wall in east London and has been endlessly reproduced, becoming one of Banksy’s best-known images.
The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.
We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.
Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.