£1m Banksy painting destroyed as UK artist plays prank at Sotheby's auction

Just minutes after its sale to a phone bidder, Girl With Balloon was destroyed by contraption hidden in the picture’s frame

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 October, 2018, 12:25pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 October, 2018, 11:26pm

Girl With Balloon, a painting by the artist Banksy, was destroyed Friday at a Sotheby’s auction in London in an apparent prank by the anonymous and mischievous artist.

Immediately after the painting had been sold to a phone bidder for £1.04 million (US$1.2 million), part of it was mysteriously shredded, according to Sotheby’s.

“We’ve just been Banksy-ed,” Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s European head of contemporary art, said at a press conference following the auction. The Financial Times reported the painting was shredded by a contraption that seemed to be hidden in the frame.

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Banksy, who made his reputation as a street artist known for provocative and sometimes politically charged stencils, protects his identity. His art has appeared unannounced on city walls around the world, helping to create strong demand for his images.

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Going, going, gone...

A post shared by Banksy (@banksy) on Oct 5, 2018 at 6:45pm PDT

Earlier Friday at Sotheby’s, Jenny Saville became the top living female artist at auction when her self-portrait, Propped, fetched £9.5 million (US$12.4 million).

The 7-foot-tall painting depicts a fleshy nude, perched on a stool and gazing in the mirror, scribbled with text. Completed in 1992, the work brought the British artist international acclaim after it appeared on the front cover of the Times Saturday Review later that year. It was bought by advertising mogul Charles Saatchi.

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The work, estimated by Sotheby’s at £3 million to £4 million, was offered as part of the estate of David Teiger, a Museum of Modern Art trustee who died in 2014. The collection’s proceeds will benefit the Teiger Foundation for the Support of Contemporary Art.

The auction record for a living male artist is US$58.4 million for a Jeff Koons sculpture.