A million-dollar piece of artwork by mysterious street artist Banksy was left in shreds before an aghast audience seconds after it was auctioned off for a record $1.4 million Friday. The British artist, whose identity is still unknown after decades of speculation, timed his painting, “Girl With Balloon,” to self-destruct via a shredder hidden in the artwork’s frame.
The painting was auctioned off Friday night at Sotheby’s in London.
“Girl With Balloon” sold for 1,042,000 pounds, or about $1,367,104 — tying a record for the priciest piece of art ever sold by Banksy, according to the auction house. “Keep It Spotless,” a defaced work by Damien Hirst, set the previous record in February 2008.
Sotheby’s admitted it was pranked by the unknown artist, and took it all in stride.
“It appears we just got Banksy-ed,” said Alex Branczik, senior director and head of Contemporary Art, Europe London, said in a statement from Sotheby’s.
The artist himself posted a photo of the shredded work on his Instagram page with the caption, “Going, going, gone…”
After the crowd’s initial shock, they whipped out their cameras to take pictures of the moment.
Video shot by an attendee showed two Sotheby’s workers remove the painting, partially shredded and hanging from the frame, from the wall and whisk it away.
Banksy took to Instagram Saturday morning with a video appearing to show the shredder being built into the frame.
“A few years ago I secretly built a shredder into a painting … in case it was ever put up for auction,” he posted with the video.
“The urge to destroy is also a creative urge – Picasso,” he wrote with the post.
Banksy first gained prominence for his stencil work on walls in the late 1990s and began holding exhibitions in the early 2000s in the U.K. and the United States.
The documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” released in 2010, garnered him further attention worldwide and an Oscar nomination. The film did not win, dashing onlookers’ hopes at a reveal of the artist.