Mysterious street artist Banksy is known for creating art that makes a statement on politics and culture, but it appears his latest work is a very pricey prank on the art world itself.
His spray-painted art titled "Girl With Balloon" apparently self-destructed in front of collectors during an auction at Sotheby's in London on Friday, minutes after selling for $1.4 million dollars (roughly £1.04 million).
As soon as the auctioneer slammed down the gavel on the last bid, which was estimated to be more than three times the painting's pre-sale value, an alarm went off. The art suddenly ran through a shredder embedded in the frame, which left more than half the canvas hanging from the bottom in strips.
Banksy's official Instagram account shared an image from Sotheby's auctioneers at the exact moment the art self-destructed. Reads the caption: "Going, going, gone…"
In an Instagram video posted Saturday, Banksy wrote, "A few years ago, I secretly built a shredder into a painting in case it was ever put up for auction." Then we see the art being shredded with the caption, "The urge to destroy is also a creative urge – Picasso." The video shows the painting shredding and onlookers looking shocked.
Said Alex Branczik, Sotheby's senior director, in a statement: "It appears we just got Banksy-ed."
While the auction house doesn't appear to have been in on the prank, some fans are speculating a disguised Banksy was at the auction in person to set off the shredder. Sotheby's didn't immediately respond to a request for additional comment.
Usually if artwork is damaged before leaving an auction house, the sale is canceled, but Sotheby's auctioneers now think the shredded art has become even more of a collectible.
"You could argue that the work is now more valuable," Branczik said. "It's certainly the first piece to be spontaneously shredded as an auction ends."
Bravo, Banksy. Well played.