Banksy auction prank leaves art world in shreds


Banksy has played what could be one of the most audacious pranks in art history, with one of his best-known works self-destructing after being sold at auction for just over £1m.

Girl With Balloon was the final item in an auction at Sotheby’s in London on Friday night and its sale price equalled the artist’s previous auction record of £1.04m.

However, shortly after the hammer came down on the item, the canvas suddenly passed through a shredder installed in the frame.

Banksy posted an image on Instagram of the shredded work dangling from the bottom of the frame with the title “Going, going, gone …”

“It appears we just got Banksy-ed,” said Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s senior director and head of contemporary art in Europe.

It is unclear whether the prank will have destroyed or enhanced the value of the work.

Sotheby’s said in a statement to the Financial Times: “We have talked with the successful purchaser who was surprised by the story. We are in discussion about next steps.”

Girl With Balloon first appeared on a wall in Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch, east London. The 2006 gallery version featured spray paint and acrylic on canvas, mounted on a board.

The true identity of the Bristol-born artist has never been officially revealed despite wide speculation.

He rose to fame with graffiti that appeared on buildings across the UK, often marked by deeply satirical undertones.

In September 2017 two new artworks by Banksy appeared at the Barbican Centre in central London inspired by an upcoming Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition.

A woman passes one of the Banksy murals near the Barbican Centre.
A woman passes one of the Banksy murals near the Barbican Centre. Photograph: David Mirzoeff/PA

Announcing the new artworks in a series of Instagram posts, the artist said: “Major new Basquiat show opens at the Barbican – a place that is normally very keen to clean any graffiti from its walls.” The work has since been protected by panes of perspex.

One of Banksy’s more elaborate jokes came just over three years ago when he opened Dismaland – a “family theme park unsuitable for small children” – on the seafront at Weston-super-Mare.

People visit Dismaland.
People visit Dismaland. Photograph: Natasha Quarmby/Rex/Shutterstock

The Guardian described it at the time as “sometimes hilarious, sometimes eye-opening and occasionally breathtakingly shocking”.

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