In a turn of events that the crowd at London's Sotheby's auction house definitely weren't expecting, Banksy's Girl with Balloon artwork self-destructed as the hammer fell on the winning bid. The moment that the painting had been sold on Friday, October 5 — for the hefty sum of £860,000 (AU$1.6 million) — the piece emitted a beeping noise. Then the artwork began to slide through a shredder embedded in the bottom of the frame, coming out the other side in torn pieces.
In a video posted on the artist's Instagram feed and YouTube channel, Banksy is shown secretly building a shredder into a painting, with an explanation that this was done a few years ago "in case it was ever put up for auction". The clip then jumps to the scene at Sotheby's during and after the auction. Unsurprisingly, things get chaotic.
Sotheby's has advised that it had no knowledge of the prank before it happened. "It appears we just got Banksy-ed," Alex Branczik, head of contemporary art for Europe, told The Art Newspaper.
Just what will happen to the piece now is still being determined, with suggestions that the work has gone up in value after being partly shredded. It certainly does continue Banksy's fascination with both creation and destruction, which has long been a theme at the centre of the street artist's work.