With the crazy art week and all the collectors gathered in London for the Frieze Art Fair and plethora of glamourous art events, a series of artworks by elusive artist Banksy were presented at prestigious auction house Sotheby’s, including his iconic Girl with Balloon for the evening auction of 5 October 2018.
Girl with a Balloon (2006) was the final lot of the night, and just as the canvas hammered at £953,829 ( totally 1,042,000 GBP after taxes) — exactly the same figure as the artist’s previous auction record, achieved in 2008 — an alarm was triggered inside the work of art. Onlookers turned just in time to see the canvas slip through its faux-gilt frame and be shredded into pieces.
Pics courtesy of Sotheby’s
“It appears we just got Banksy-ed,” said Alex Branczik, the auction house’s head of contemporary art, Europe, immediately after the sale. “He is arguably the greatest British street artist, and tonight we saw a little piece of Banksy genius,” he said, adding that he was “not in on the ruse”, although it is not clear whether other members of staff were. Some commented on the unusually thick frame, which could have easily concealed a shredding mechanism.
After a man dressed in black sporting sunglasses and a hat was seen scuffling with security guards near the entrance to Sotheby’s shortly after the incident, speculation mounted that the elusive artist had himself pressed the button that destroyed the work. According to the provenance, Girl with a Balloon was acquired directly from the artist in 2006.
“We are busy figuring out what this means in an auction context,” Branczik said. “The shredding is now part of the integral art work. We have not experienced a situation where a painting has spontaneously shredded, upon achieving a record for the artist.”
One potential outcome, according to a spokeswoman, is that the destroyed painting could be preserved as a document of the guerrilla tactic. “You could argue that the work is now more valuable,” Branczik said. “It’s certainly the first piece to be spontaneously shredded as an auction ends.”
On his social media account Banksy captured the moment with a caption ‘Going, Going, Gone…’