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As the saying goes, a fool and his money are soon parted—and one fool just parted with $1.4 million thinking they were buying a rare and valuable Banksy painting at auction. Instead, they were the subject of a savage prank at the hands of the most notorious and mysterious graffiti artist in the world.
Sotheby’s had up for auction a piece of one of Banksy’s most well known and iconic images, a 2006 painting of “Girl with Balloon” done in a spray paint and acrylic. But the moment the hammer dropped, signaling the end of the auction, some sort of remote device triggered a shredder hidden within the piece’s large gold frame which caused the painting to be destroyed right before the eyes of everyone in attendance.
Seriously though—how relieved must the second highest bidder have been in that moment?
To add insult to injury, Banksy posted a photo of his creation to Instagram in mid-shred, with the tongue-in-cheek caption, “Going, going, gone…”
Alex Branczik, the senior director and head of Contemporary Art in London said of the prank, “It appears we just got Banksy-ed,” which is one hell of an understatement. The price tag of the piece was tied with Banksy’s highest-ever at auction back in 2008.
A Sothebys press release notes that the incident “marks the first time in auction history that a work of art automatically shredded itself after coming under the hammer,” which would have been a pretty good assumption.
However, in an even odder twist, the piece may have actually increased in value after having been destroyed. MyArtBroker.com co-founder Joey Syer told the Evening Standard that the value may have even doubled due to the popularity of “Girl with Balloon.”
“The auction result will only propel this further and given the media attention this stunt has received,” he said. “The lucky buyer would see a great return on the £1.02M they paid last night.”
According to a since-deleted Instagram post, Banksy had apparently been planning this stunt for years.
Banksy posted this video (and then deleted it) on his Instagram: pic.twitter.com/NDpkNpqJUD— Ali A. Rizvi (@aliamjadrizvi) October 6, 2018
Whether he expected the piece to increase in value is another story, which we can sum up by saying, “I don’t feel that I need to explain my art to you, Warren.”
Stacey Ritzen is a reporter and editor based in West Philadelphia with over 10 years' experience covering pop culture, web culture, entertainment, and news. You can follow her on Twitter @staceyritzen.