Elusive street graffiti artist Banksy appears to have pulled the ultimate prank on one art collector

By Dave Quinn
October 06, 2018 12:16 PM

Elusive street graffiti artist Banksy appears to have pulled the ultimate prank on one art collector.

On Friday, Sotheby’s London auctioned off a framed version of 2006’s Girl With Balloon, one of Banksy’s best-known works. But moments after it was sold for a record $1.4 million, the stencil spray painting immediately started self-destructing through a secret shredder that was hidden in the frame.

Credit: Banksy/Instagram

It appears we just got Banksy-ed,” said Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s senior director and head of contemporary art in Europe, in a statement on the auction house’s website.

Banksy shared a photo of the half-shredded piece via Instagram, cheekily writing, “Going, going, gone…”

Branczik later told The Art Newspaper, “He is arguably the greatest British street artist, and tonight we saw a little piece of Banksy genius.”

That genius might mean the partially destroyed piece is more attractive to the buyer, whose identity has not been revealed. As the AP reported, Sotheby’s said it is “in discussion about next steps” with the purchaser.

“You could argue that the work is now more valuable,” Branczik said, according to The Art Newspaper. “It’s certainly the first piece to be spontaneously shredded as an auction ends.”

“We are busy figuring out what this means in an auction context,” Branczik told The Financial Times. “The shredding is now part of the integral artwork. We have not experienced a situation where a painting has spontaneously shredded, upon achieving a record for the artist.”

As for how Banksy pulled it off, Branczik said he was not “in on the ruse” despite Sotheby’s buying the piece directly from the artist in 2006. The Art Newspaper reported that a man dressed in black sporting sunglasses and a hat scuffed with security guards near the entrance shortly after the incident.

Reps for Sotheby’s did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.