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‘Going, Going, Gone…’: Banksy Artwork Shreds Itself After Sale

'Girl with Balloon' by Banksy at Lazinc Gallery in London in July
‘Girl with Balloon’ by Banksy at Lazinc Gallery in London in July Photo: tolga akmen/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

LONDON—Banksy, the anonymous British street artist famous for his eye-catching political spoofs, has pulled a £1 million prank on a buyer of one of his own works.

The framed “Girl With Balloon,” a stencil-spray-painted piece from 2006, was auctioned at Sotheby’s in central London. Moments after it was sold to an unnamed buyer for £1.04 million ($1.4 million), the canvas passed through a shredder that appeared to be hidden inside the frame, emerging underneath in thin strips.

“It appears we just got Banksy-ed,” said Alex Branczik, a Sotheby’s senior director.

A post on Banksy’s Instagram account read: “Going, going, gone…”, along with a photo of the item in front of a group of dismayed spectators.

In a statement on its website, the auction house said: “The unexpected incident became instant art-world history and certainly marks the first time in auction history that a work of art automatically shredded itself after coming under the hammer.”

Banksy, a pseudonym, keeps his identity shrouded in mystery. He started out spray-painting in his native Bristol, southwestern England, in the 1990s, and has since gained international acclaim for politically charged street art—that often tends to pop up unannounced—across the world.

Several of his artworks have been removed from buildings and sold at auction, while his 2010 documentary, “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” was nominated for an Academy Award.

“Girl With Balloon,” which depicts a child rendered in black reaching toward a red, heart-shaped balloon, is one of Banksy’s most recognizable works, but it wasn’t his first to fetch more than $1 million.

In 2008, his “Keep It Spotless,” a Damien Hirst painting defaced by the elusive artist, was sold for $1.87 million at a Sotheby’s charity event in New York.

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