Banksy artwork sells for over £1m at Sotheby’s then immediately self-destructs

Artist celebrates stunt with Instagram post simply saying: 'Going going gone'

Peter Stubley
Saturday 06 October 2018 19:45 BST
Banksy sells for over $1m then immediately self-destructs

A Banksy artwork self-destructed moments after it was sold for £1m to an anonymous phone bidder at Sotheby’s auction house.

Girl with Balloon was shredded by a mechanism hidden within its own frame in front of a stunned audience in London on Friday night.

Banksy, whose true identity remains unknown, celebrated the prank with a post on Instagram with the caption: “Going going gone”.

“It appears we just got Banksy-ed,” said Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s senior director and head of contemporary art.

The 2006 artwork, which depicts a girl reaching out to a red heart-shaped balloon and is one of Banksy’s most iconic images, was valued at around £300,000 but eventually sold for £1,042,000.

As the gavel went down to signal the end of the auction at 9pm, an alarm went off and the canvas began sliding downwards through the frame.

It emerged at the bottom sliced into ribbons, prompting officials to rush in to take the artwork from the wall in a doomed bid to save it.

Sotheby’s described the surprise as “instant art world folklore” and said it marked “the first time in auction history that a work of art automatically shredded itself after coming under the hammer.”

The auction house said that the successful bidder was “surprised by the story” and added: “We are in discussion about next steps”.

Banksy is a Bristol-based street artist whose true identity has never been officially revealed despite repeated speculation.

Last year, the musician and DJ Goldie appeared to let slip that he was called Robert, an apparent reference to Massive Attack member Robert del Naja.

The artist first achieved notoriety with a series of graffiti pieces that appeared on buildings across the country and later became involved in a public battle with rival King Robbo, who died in 2014.

Girl with Balloon first appeared on a wall on Great Eastern Street in London, in 2002 but the gallery version was created using spray paint and acrylic on canvas.

Several other Banksy artworks have been destroyed or damaged in some way, normally by third parties who do not appreciate their significance.

In 2012, Banksy's Parachuting Rat was accidentally ruined by an Australian builder while a series of murals in New York were defaced with graffiti by spiteful rivals.

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