LONDON – Banksy stunned the art world once again, shredding one of his most well-known pieces during a Sotheby’s auction.
The now-viral moment happened at the end of the auction on Friday. As the piece sold for just over £1,000,000 an alarm sounded and “Girl with Balloon” began to shred itself. The painting passed through a shredder built into the gold frame. It stopped just above the girls’ head, leaving the balloon in tact.
Shortly thereafter, Banksy posted on Instagram of the shredded painting and captioned it, “Going, going gone…”
On Saturday, Banksy posted a video to Instagram with a quote by Mikhail Bakunin, often attributed to Pablo Picasso: “The urge to destroy is also a creative urge.”
The video gives a behind-the-scenes look at how the painting was able to shred itself. It shows Banksy fitting a shredder into the ornate frame, placing a backing on it, and nailing it together. It also says Banksy installed the shredded years ago, “in case it was ever put up for auction.”
The incident both shocked and amused auction attendees as the painting self-destructed.
In a statement released by Sotheby’s following the shredding, Sotheby’s senior director Alex Branczik said, “It appears we just got Banksy-ed.”
The painting is one of Banksy’s most iconic images. It depicts a girl reaching out toward a bright red, heart shaped balloon. The contemporary artist’s works are now so widely respected they are selling for millions. All this, despite his steadfast commitment to remaining unidentified and physically out of the spotlight.
Banksy is no newcomer to pranks, either. In 2015, he debuted “Dismaland,” an interactive art exhibit satirizing Disneyland. In 2013 he sold unmarked prints of his work to passersby in Central Park for $60.
Perhaps the best description of Banksy as an artist comes from Vox reporter Aja Romano, who says Banksy critiques the commodification of art.
“In keeping with his anti-establishment bent, Banksy’s most consistent and scathing critiques have long been directed at the commercialism of art,” Romano wrote.
Sotheby’s declined to identify the buyer.