Self destructive painting
Banksy’s latest prank could cost one person over $1 million after the street artist self-destructed one of his works moments after it was sold at auction.
A framed version of Banksy’s “Girl With Balloon,” one of the artist’s most iconic images, hit the auction block Friday night at Sotheby’s in London. However, moments after a $1.4 million winning bid was placed, an alarm within the painting sounded and the canvas “began to pass through a shredder hidden in the frame,” Sotheby’s writes.
“It appears we just got Banksy-ed,” Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s senior director and head of contemporary art in Europe, said as the painting destroyed itself, the Guardian reports.
In a statement, Sotheby’s said of the prank, “We have talked with the successful purchaser who was surprised by the story. We are in discussion about next steps.”
Banksy himself captured the moment of shredding on Instagram with a photo captioned “Going, going, gone…”
Sotheby’s added that the prank “became instant art world history and certainly marks the first time in auction history that a work of art automatically shredded itself after coming under the hammer.”
While on the surface it appears that the winning bidder quickly took a $1.4 million loss, one art industry insider speculated that Banksy shredding the “Girl With Balloon” painting actually enhanced the work’s value.
“Given the media attention this stunt has received, the lucky buyer would see a great return on the [$1.4 million] they paid last night,” MyArtBroker’s Joey Syer told the Guardian.
“This is now part of art history in its shredded state and we’d estimate Banksy has added at a minimum 50 percent to its value, possibly as high as being worth £2m plus.”
There is speculation that Banksy, who has kept his identity hidden for more than 20 years, may have been in the room at the time of the sale, possibly overseeing the whole performance while filming on his phone.
Footage circulating on the internet shows a middle-aged man, wearing thick-rimmed black glasses, filming the moment when the picture is shredded.
Shortly after, a man is seen being escorted out of the room.
Was that Banksy?
In 2016, scientists at Queen Mary's University in London used geographic profiling, based on the artist's movements, to identify him as a man called Robin Gunningham.
The authors conceded that their study fell short of definitive proof.
The man spotted at Friday's auction bears similarities to Gunningham, leaving internet and art sleuths to suggest it was him.
The angle from which the man was filming could also correspond to the angle used in Banksy's video version of events.
Banksy is known for having tight-lipped collaborators who work with him, and it is also possible he had people placed in the room to record the event.
Erika Rossi, a gallery owner from Italy, who was at the auction, said there was a young man who had been diligently filming throughout who sat in front of her. She also saw a man "arguing with security" after the auction had finished.