Someone purchased an iconic Banksy painting for $1.4 million on Friday, only to watch it immediately turn to shreds.
Moments after the gavel came down on the sale of the enigmatic artist’s “Girl With Balloon” painting at Sotheby’s auction house in London, the painting passed through a shredder that had apparently been hidden in the frame. The painting only went partially through the shredder. leaving half a painting intact and half shredded at the bottom, according to The Associated Press.
The artwork, spray paint and acrylic on canvas, showed one of the artist’s most well-known images ― a young girl reaching her hand toward a red, heart-shaped balloon.
“It appears we just got Banksy-ed,” Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s senior director, said in a press release from the auction house.
Banksy, the world-famous artist whose identity is still a mystery, posted a photo of the shocking moment on Instagram, captioning the image, “Going, going, gone...”
He also posted a video confirming that he had secretly built a shredder into the painting, “in case it was ever put up for auction.” He captioned the post, “‘The urge to destroy is also a creative urge’ - Picasso.”
It wasn’t clear how the shredder was triggered.
Branczik maintains that he was not “in on the ruse” and speculated Banksy may have attended the auction incognito and somehow triggered it himself, according to Vice.
Sotheby’s told the AP it’s now “in discussion about next steps” with the unidentified buyer.
While the moment would likely be a disappointment if the buyer was planning to display the painting, The Guardian noted that the historic stunt could potentially have increased the artwork’s value. As Sotheby’s noted, the incident “certainly marks the first time in auction history that a work of art automatically shredded itself after coming under the hammer.”
This story has been updated to include Banksy’s video about the shredder and additional information about the incident.
UPDATE: Oct. 12 ― Sotheby’s said in a statement on Oct. 11 that Banksy’s “authentication body,” Pest Control, had granted the half-shredded work a certificate and given it a new title, “Love is in the Bin.” The buyer, described in the statement as a “female European collector,” is going through with her purchase of the work as originally planned.