Banksy Avoids Selling Out as Famous ‘Girl With Balloon’ Painting Self-Destructs at a Sotheby’s Auction

By Yelena Mandenberg Yelena Mandenberg has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on October 6, 2018

Guerilla artist Banksy stunned the crowd at Sotheby’s this weekend when his famous ‘Girl With Balloon’ painting suddenly self-destructed after being sold on the auction block for £1,042,000.

Banksy, never revealing his true identity, posted a video of the event with the caption, “going, going, gone” on Twitter. Banksy since deleted that tweet and replaced it with a video of him building the shredder into the painting.

He explains: ‘A few years ago I secretly built a shredder into a painting in case it was ever put up for auction…’

Just moments after the ‘Girl With Balloon’ painting got sold to a phone buyer, the shredder in the artwork started whizzing. A shocked crowd stared as the painting destroyed itself, and the Sotheby’s employee who was on the phone with the winning bidder had to explain what was going on.

Luckily, the internet is full of folks that capture things before they get deleted, so here’s the video of Banksy’s famous painting destroying itself:

Sotheby’s clearly wasn’t expecting Bansky to pull off that stunt, and neither was the buyer.

Of course, any time Banksy goes out in public, people speculate at his identity. Others also caught the auction event on tape, and have been claiming different audience members are Banksy.

On the other hand though, Banksy’s attempt to devalue his painting for a statement backfired. Now the buyer has a partially-destroyed Banksy piece, which was confirmed to increase in value.

According to Joey Syer, the co-founder of MyArtBroker, “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 £1.04million they paid last night. This is now part of art history in its shredded state and we’d estimate Banksy has added at a minimum 50 percent increase to its value, possibly as high as being worth £2million plus.”

‘The Girl With Baloon’ painting is one of Banksy’s most well-known works, originally being graffitied onto the side of a shop in London. The piece represents the Syrian crisis, with a little refugee girl trying to reach out to grab the balloon, which some say represents ‘hope.’

This painting was acquired for the auction house by a mystery collector who had the painting signed by Banksy himself in 2006. Before the sale, Sotheby’s said the work was “authenticated by Pest Control,” the group that acts on Banksy’s behalf.

Sotheby’s senior director and head of contemporary art in Europe, Alex Branczik, stated “It appears we just got Banksy-ed. We have talked with the successful purchaser who was surprised by the story. We are in discussion about next steps.”

Since Sotheby’s got the painting through an anonymous source years ago, they still aren’t sure if whoever sold it to them was in on the stunt. Or whether it was Banksy himself that set the wheels in motion for this years ago by giving the painting to Sotheby’s himself (or, through his organization more likely).

The shredding device was installed at the very bottom of the frame. Many were surprised that Sotheby’s staff didn’t notice it in all the years they had the painting. Considering how many art experts looked at the picture and inspected it, it’s impressive that they all failed to notice the mechanism in the bottom.


By Yelena Mandenberg Yelena Mandenberg has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Journalist verified by Muck Rack verified

Yelena Mandenberg is the Ideas Editor at Grit Daily with a passion for news of all sorts. Finishing Brooklyn College with a degree in Print Media Journalism as the industry died out, she began working as a freelancer.After spending some time working in the retail industry, Yelena started BK Riot Writing, a marketing company that caters to small and local businesses, creating content that helps them compete. From her South Brooklyn apartment where she lives with her cat & tortoise, Yelena is always seeking something new and interesting to cover.

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