Maverick artist Banksy shreds $1.4m work at auction

In a first in auction history, a maverick British street artist known for his penchant for pranks went to the extreme on Friday by self-destructing one of his best works moments after it came under the hammer for more than a million pounds at Sotheby’s in London.

‘Banksy’, whose full identity is not known, had kept a shredder hidden in the frame of the spray-painted canvas ‘Girl with balloon’, above, (Credit: Sotheby’s). As soon as the work of art was sold for $1.4 million, it passed through the shredder, the auction house said.

As shocked auction-goers watched the painting disintegrate, a post on Banksy’s official Instagram account captured the moment with the words imitating an auctioneer “Going, going, gone…”

Banksy’s post and reports suggest that the artist was present at the auction venue to trigger the shredding. The man wearing sunglasses and hat who scuffled with security guards at the venue’s entrance may be none other than the artist himself.

Alex Branczik, head of contemporary European art at Sotheby’s, said: “It appears we just got Banksy-ed.”

The auction house had never encountered such a situation in the past and it is discussing next steps with the buyer of the Banksy piece.

Some say Banksy’s art work in its shredded state may fetch more.

In the past, Banksy, who hails from Bristol, has amused the art world with images of two policemen kissing, armed riot police with yellow smiley faces and a chimpanzee saying ‘Laugh now, but one day I’ll be in charge.’

‘Girl with Balloon’ depicts a child reaching up toward a heart-shaped red balloon. It was originally stencilled on a wall in east London.