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This Banksy Painting “Self-Destructed” After Being Sold For $1.4 Million

“It appears we just got Banksy-ed.”

Originally posted on
Updated on

Banksy might have just carried out the *greatest ever* troll of the art world at a Sotheby's auction when his painting seemed to self-destruct moments after it sold for $1.4 million.

$1,300,000 BANKSY artwork piece just “self-destructed” right after it was sold at Sotheby’s auction!🤯😳 (An alarm sound went off and the frame began to shred the art piece.)🚨 https://t.co/TAsrE9ptIh

Banksy’s iconic “Girl With Red Balloon” sold at Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening Sale in London on Friday for just over £1 million ($1.4 million).

But just after the auctioneer’s hammer went down, the painting began to shred itself through its frame, apparently triggered by a remote device.

“It appears we just got Banksy-ed,” Alex Branczik, Sotheby's head of contemporary art for Europe, told shocked onlookers.

This human is a GENIUS. $1.3M Banksy Artwork “Self-Destructs” right after it’s sold at Auction. https://t.co/9KAmZoJu95 https://t.co/Wmq1lvU3BM

Banksy, who chooses to remain anonymous, posted a photo of the shredding moment on Instagram.

Instagram: @banksy

About 12 hours later, Banksy posted an edited Instagram video showing the incident, with the quote: “‘The urge to destroy is also a creative urge’ —Picasso.”

Instagram: @banksy

Although Banksy attributed the quote to Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, the line was made famous by Russian anarchist and philosopher Mikhail Bakunin.

“A few years ago I secretly built a shredder into a painting in case it was ever put up for auction,” reads the video.

A man, presumably Banksy, is shown building the frame.
Instagram

A man, presumably Banksy, is shown building the frame.

It then shows the auction and the moment that the painting started being shredded. At first only one woman seems to notice what’s happening.

Instagram

Then two men come — presumably art handlers at Sotheby’s — and remove the painting while the shredder continues to cut it up.

Instagram

Needless to say, people absolutely loved it.

@MichaelSurtees I like to think that this is because Banksy's artwork is meant to be seen, and experienced, not owned. I may be wrong but I love this. ❤ Best thing I've seen on twitter all day.

They said it was the enigmatic street artist’s way of telling the world that his work “isn’t meant to be owned”.

@DanFleyshman #Banksy was clearly making a statement about anyone who thinks you can actually own his art. He’s essentially saying art is free and isn’t meant to be owned...also would you really expect anything less...IT’S BANKSY!!! 🤦🏽‍♀️

And that Banksy is probably the only person who could pull this off.

It must be a lot of fun being Banksy. Making a (theatrical) point about art that no one else in art can make. https://t.co/LcaY42Z9uy

Some questioned whether it had actually been shredded at all.

So, I have a theory about that Banksy shredded girl w/the red balloon: It's not shredded. It's still rolled up inside the frame. A pre-torn canvas rolled out from behind the one in front that is rolled up behind itself. The torn canvas doesn't line up w/the one in front: https://t.co/fuyCaxAcMj

There is speculation that the stunt could have made the painting more valuable.

“However, there was speculation after the Banksy sale as to whether the shredded painting would have risen in value, given its status as the subject of one of the greatest pranks to have been played on the art market.” https://t.co/4dR5P67zVt https://t.co/3YBcBBeLl7

“We have not experienced this situation in the past ... where a painting spontaneously shredded, upon achieving a [near] record for the artist. We are busily figuring out what this means in an auction context,” Branczik said.

Sotheby’s said in a statement that the purchaser was “surprised” by the incident, and that the next steps are being discussed.

It had originally been expected to sell for between £200,000 and £300,000 ($260,000 and $390,000).

In any case, others concluded, Banksy can continue to hold the well-earned title of “world's smuggest man”.

Anyone who says ‘classic Banksy’ or ‘epic’ or anything that isn’t ‘world’s smuggest man continues to have cake and eat it’ can leave my timeline $1.3M Banksy Artwork “Self-Destructs” at Auction https://t.co/o36LAJqOEq

CORRECTION

The Banksy work sold for almost $1.4 million when factoring in the buyer's premium. An earlier version of this post said it sold for $1.3 million.

Hazel is a news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Hazel Shearing at hazel.shearing@buzzfeed.com.

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