As the last bang of the gavel signified the final sale of the night at Sotheby’s art auction in London, the last piece sold began to beep. From inside of the frame a remote controlled mechanism began to shred one of England-based street artist Banksy’s most famous pieces, “Girl with Balloon.” The piece had just been sold for $1.4 million.
When the shredding stopped, half of the canvas hung from the frame in ribbons.
“It appears we just got Banksy-ed,” said Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s Senior Director and Head of Contemporary Art in a press release.
The auction took place Friday night October 4 in London. The Banksy piece was tied to be the most expensive work auctioned off that was made by the street artist. It was sold to a bidder over the phone; it is not clear whether they will be given a refund for the piece since this has never happened before.
The following day Banksy posted on Instagram about the stunt. He first posted a picture of the shredded piece captioned “Going, going, gone….”
A few hours later he followed up with a video post detailing how he pulled off the hidden shredder.
According to the video, “a few years ago” Banksy installed the shredder into the frame of the piece. He did so in case it was ever auctioned off. The video includes shots of him assembling the shredder mechanics and the piece being auctioned off, shredded, and then taken down from a spectator perspective.
Banksy captioned the video: “‘The urge to destroy is also a creative urge’ – Picasso.”
According to Sotheby’s, the previous owner of the piece had acquired the piece directly from Banksy himself. No one is sure how the mechanics in the frame went unnoticed or if anyone at Sotheby’s could have been involved.
Banksy is known not only for being political, but also for being against his art being used to make a profit. On his website he warns about shows that charge for his work without his consent. As a street artist his work is typically accessible for all, no fee.
This is not the first time he has done something in response to Sotheby’s auctioning off his art.
11 years ago in February of 2007, the day after Sotheby’s auctioned off three of Banksy’s works, he posted to his website an image of the auction house selling a piece with the words, “I can’t believe you morons actually buy this shit.” The piece was titled with the same phrase.
Ironically, seven years later in June 2014, the printed version of the piece was itself auctioned off at Sotheby’s.
Photo Credit: Wikiart
Most recently, on August 15, Banksy expressed disapproval of his artwork being seen at a cost. He posted a screengrab of a text conversation about an exhibition in Moscow charging people to see his work.
“I don’t charge people to see my art unless there’s a fairground wheel,” said Banksy in one of the text messages.
Regardless of Banksy’s intent or desired message, the shredded “Girl with Balloon” may now be even more valuable.