A Banksy Painting Shred Itself Moments After Being Sold for Over 1 Million Pounds
Banksy, an artist whose notorious anti-establishment leanings have ironically made his works the darling of art establishments, has created what might be the most expensive pile of confetti ever sold. An October 5 auction for his piece, Girl with Balloon, elicited gasps both for the record-matching amount for which it sold—£1,042,000 (P74,053,626)—and for the work’s self-destruction just seconds after the hammer had fallen.
“It appears we just got Banksy-ed,” Alex Branczik, Senior Director and Head of Contemporary Art, Sotheby’s Europe London, said in a news release.
Immediately after the sale, the painting began to move down its frame, which appeared to have been fitted with a remote-controlled shredder. The artist then captured the prank on camera and posted it in on his Instagram account, with the caption “Going, going, gone…”
Girl with Balloon is one of Banksy’s most popular works, believed to have first appeared as graffiti on the wall of an East London shop in 2002. The artist had since remixed the work—an image of a girl chasing after a red, heart-shaped balloon—into different political statements. In 2014, he replaced the girl with a Syrian refugee in protest over the conflict in Syria; in 2017, he attempted to sway UK voters to vote against the Tories with the promise of a free limited edition print of the painting in which the iconic red balloon had the Union Jack as its pattern.
Last year, Girl with Balloon was voted the UK’s favorite painting in a poll conducted by Samsung.
The piece is well-regarded for the universality of its imagery: the balloon is often read as a metaphor for the fleeting nature of one’s dreams, with the girl’s act of reaching out for it representing the hope with which we pursue those lofty desires.
Perhaps, in this particular case, the balloon’s floating away represents the unfortunate buyer’s dream of owning a Banksy original, which now only exists as a £1 million pile of shreds.
Still, hope endures: in a statement made to MailOnline, Joey Syer, co-founder of online art seller MyArtBroker, believes that the prank may have caused the piece to double in value. “The auction result will only propel this further and given the media attention this stunt has received, the lucky buyer would see a great return on the £1.02m [sic] they paid last night,” he says.
“This is now part of art history in its shredded state and we'd estimate Banksy has added at a minimum 50% increase to it's[sic] value, possibly as high as being worth £2million plus.”
Sotheby’s is currently discussing next steps with the buyer.