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A Banksy painting sold for $1.4 million at Sotheby’s. Then it self destructed

Reuters/Dylan Martinez
By Rosie Spinks
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

It’s hard enough for an art collector to get their hands on an original Banksy. It’s even harder when the perennially-provocative British artist decides to sell one that self-destructs.

That’s what happened on Friday night at a Sotheby’s auction in London. As soon as the gavel came down on the $1.4 million sale, the painting moved through a remotely-controlled paper shredder installed in the bottom of the picture frame.

A post on Banksy’s Instagram captured the utterly stunned reactions of those in the room.

“It appears we’ve just been Banksy’ed” Sotheby’s senior director said. The painting was a gallery original of Girl With Balloon, one of the anonymous artist’s most iconic images, which first appeared as a piece of street art on Great Eastern Street, in the east London neighborhood of Shoreditch, in 2002. It was removed in 2014.

While the prank could be interpreted of a send-up of the hype and price inflation that defines the modern art world, it could also end up fueling the fire. The Guardian noted that “It is unclear whether the prank will have destroyed or enhanced the value of the work.”

As for the poor (but also very rich) buyer who unwittingly bought a shredded original? Sothebys did not reveal their identity but released a statement to the Financial Times (paywall) “We have talked with the successful purchaser who was surprised by the story. We are in discussion about next steps.”

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