“It appears we just got Banksy-ed.”
Over the weekend, British street artist Banksy shocked the art world after he arranged for one his most popular works to self-destruct shortly after it was auctioned off for £1 million (US$1.4 million or AUS$1.9 million).
The stunt happened at Sotheby’s in London on Friday night. His work, Girl With Balloon, was the final item on auction, and an anonymous buyer had just purchased it. However, as soon as the hammer came down on the item, the canvas started moving.
It fell through a hidden shredder in the frame, and all but the image of the red balloon in the painting were torn to bits.
Attendees looked on in confusion and horror as organisers scrambled to take down the artwork.
Banksy later posted an Instagram video explaining how he did it. It opens with the caption, “A few years ago, I secretly built a shredder into a painting.” It then shows the graffiti artist installing the shredder before adding, “In case it was ever put up for auction.”
He also quoted Picasso, saying: “The urge to destroy is also a creative urge – Picasso.”
Sotheby’s told the Financial Times that they are still trying to make sense of what happened. Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s senior director and head of contemporary art in Europe, said: “It appears we just got Banksy-ed.”
According to Joey Syer, co-founder of website MyArtBroker.com, which resells Banksy pieces, the prank only adds to the work’s value, instead of diminishing it.
“The auction result will only propel this further and given the media attention this stunt has received, the lucky buyer would see a great return on the £1.02m they paid last night,” he said.
“This is now part of art history in its shredded state and we’d estimate Banksy has added at a minimum 50% to its value, possibly as high as being worth £2m plus.”