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Million Dollar Banksy Painting Shreds Itself at the End of the Auction

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Guerilla street artist Banksy has a habit of walking a very fine line between art-as-product and art-as-experience. Still, it was a surprise when one of his paintings was sold at auction Friday night and then immediately began to self-destruct. The frame in which the painting was housed shredded the canvas.

“‘Girl with a Balloon’ (2006) was the final lot of the evening sale at Sotheby’s and ended things off with an impressive final price of £953,829 (~$1,251,423), or £1,042,000 with buyer’s premium (~$1,367,104),” HyperAllergic writes.

Oddly, and perhaps a sign of some staged monkey-business, that sum is the exact amount of a previous auction, and one that set the record for a Banksy sale in 2008.

It remains unclear if the buyer was in on the exhibition, but it was still a show. When the gavel fell, an alarm reportedly sounded and the frame of the painting began shredding the canvas it held.

“[It] sold for over a million dollars and as we sat there…the painting started moving,” Robert Casterline of Casterline Goodman gallery said. “[It was] all out confusion then complete excitement.”

“Banksy did it again to the art market that he so despises.”

“It appears we just got Banksy-ed,” Anny Shaw, an art reporter wrote. “He is arguably the greatest British street artist, and tonight we saw a little piece of Banksy genius.”

Banksy is notoriously reclusive. Many in the gallery began speculating about his presence at the auction. Had he pushed the button himself?

As news of the shredding spread, many wondered why an artist would shred his own work. Others seem to think that this isn’t a destructive act, but more of a transformative moment.

You could argue that the work is now more valuable,” Alex Branczik, the auction house’s head of contemporary art for Europe told reporters. “It’s certainly the first piece to be spontaneously shredded as an auction ends.”

“We have talked with the successful purchaser who was surprised by the story. We are in discussion about next steps,” Sotheby’s said in a statement.

What are the next steps? The question for the buyer is hardly significant. Banksy, though, now has set the bar high.