A painting by mysterious British artist Banksy shred itself into pieces at the moment it was sold for more than one million pounds at a London auction.
Onlookers gasped and laughed after the bottom half of “Girl with Balloon”, one of Banksy’s best-known works, was sucked into a shredder hidden in its frame as the hammer fell, auction house Sotheby’s said, following Friday’s incident.
The 12-year-old painting had just been sold for just over 1 million pounds ($1.37 million) – matching Banksy’s all-time record.
“It appears we just got Banksy-ed,” Alex Branczik, senior director and head of contemporary art, said in a statement on Sotheby’s website.
Banksy himself posted an Instagram picture of shocked attendees watching the painting disintegrate, with the caption: “Going, going, gone…”
Sotheby’s said this was “certainly” the first time a work of art started to shred itself after coming under the hammer.
Video footage showed two men taking the painting away shortly after the sale, bits of the image hanging down from the bottom of the frame in strips.
“Girl With Balloon,” which depicts a small child reaching up towards a heart-shaped red balloon, was originally stenciled on a wall in east London and has been endlessly reproduced, becoming one of Banksy’s best-known images.
The auction house was not immediately available for comment on the whereabouts of the painting’s remains, or how its value might have changed in light of its self-destruction.
Rise to prominence
Banksy began his career spray-painting buildings in Bristol, England, and has become one of the world’s best-known artists.
The artist, whose real identity is unknown, is known for sharply ironic outdoor graffiti with political themes, including at Israel’s barrier at the West Bank and Disneyland where he painted a life-size figure of a Guantanamo Bay detainee.
His mischievous and often satirical images also include two policemen kissing, armed riot police with yellow smiley faces and a chimpanzee with a sign bearing the words “Laugh now, but one day I’ll be in charge.”
Banksy is not the first artist to destroy his own work. In the years after World War II, German-born artist Gustav Metzger pioneered “auto-destructive art,” creating paintings using acid that ate away the fabric beneath.