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News > Culture

Banksy Stunt at Auction Tears Upperclass Art World to Shreds

  • Banksy's

    Banksy's "Girl With Balloon" was auctioned Friday and promptly shredded after it was sold for US$1.4 million. | Photo: Reuters

Published 7 October 2018

A viral video shows the painting slide from its gilded wood frame and exit through the base in dozens of strips.

With his signature flare, the infamous and anonymous street artist Banksy, caused a frenzy in the halls of Sotheby’s Fine Art auction house after his famous “Girl With Balloon” print was torn to shreds.


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Auctioneer Oliver Barker called the final bid of US$1.4 million during an event in London Friday night, and with the fall of his hammer, the iconic painting was sold.

“Then we heard an alarm go off,” said Morgan Long, director of Sotheby’s.

“Everyone turned round, and the picture had slipped through its frame,” Long said.

A viral video shows the painting slide from its gilded wood frame and exit through the base in dozens of strips.

Flustered auction attendees are seen quickly removing the painting from the hall as it continues to self-destruct.

Banksy later revealed via an Instagram post that he had years before intentionally installed a shredder into the frame on the chance his painting would enter an auctioning ring.

“The urge to destroy is also a creative urge,” the artist wrote, quoting Picasso, with the acerbic comment, “going, going, gone.”

Alex Branczik, the company’s European director said, “We’ve been Banksy-ed.”

Sotheby’s stated, “The first time in auction history that a work of art automatically shredded itself. It’s certainly a long-simmering plot, and it seems unlikely that the shredder and its power source would have remained a secret for so long.”

New York Magazine writer and Pulitzer Prize-winner Jerry Saltz said he believed the stunt could be a criticism of the art world and market demand.

"The market is such a kind of dumb organism. People in the market buy what other people in the market buy. And suddenly, one of the things they are buying changed. So he pranked them," Saltz said, adding he wouldn't be surprised if shredded Banksy art became a new fad in the near future.

Auctioneer Barker noted, “It’s a brilliant Banksy moment, this. You couldn’t make it up, could you?”

The unfortunate purchaser of the masterpiece has not been named, however according to a statement from the Fine Art, “The successful bidder was a private collector, bidding through a Sotheby’s staff member on the phone. We are currently in discussions about next steps.”

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