“It appears we just got Banksy-ed,” Alex Branczik, senior director and head of contemporary art at Sotheby’s, said in a news release.
After one of the British street artist’s most popular works, “Girl With Balloon,” sold at a Sotheby’s London auction Friday night, for about $1.4 million, it started moving down inside its frame.
As the auctioneer yelled, “Can I have your attention,” heads turned toward the iconic stencil spray painting, video purported to be from Banksy’s Instagram account shows. As the painting found its way through an apparent opening in the bottom of the frame, it was being shredded.
Sotheby’s called it “instant art world history” and “the first time in auction history that a work of art automatically shredded itself after coming under the hammer.”
Everything surrounding Banksy is shrouded in mystery, so who all was privy to the self-destructing work of art before it happened is unclear, but the video account, screenshotted and posted to Twitter by multiple users, contends that Banksy did it all on purpose.
“A few years ago I secretly built a shredder into a painting,” the video says. “In case it was ever put up to auction.”
Branczik was not in on the prank, according to The Art Newspaper.
The users who posted the video to Twitter say it was taken from Banksy’s Instagram account before he quickly deleted the post.
Banksy did leave one photo of the million-dollar stunt on his Instagram profile, though. He captioned it, “Going, going, gone...”
Banksy spray painted “Girl With Balloon” in 2006. In 2017, it was voted the UK’s favorite work or art, according to the BBC.
No word on what compensation, if any, will be afforded to the new buyer.
“The successful bidder was a private collector, bidding through a Sotheby’s staff member on the phone,” Sotheby’s said in a statement to the New York Times. “We are currently in discussions about next steps.”