Newsweek is saying it could be Banksy's "most jaw-dropping trick yet," and it would be hard to find anyone who disagrees. It happened Friday night at a Sotheby's auction in London, when the enigmatic street artist's 2006 Girl With Balloon painting was sold off for $1.1 million to a bidder on the phone. However, shortly after the gavel came down on the sale, something unexpected happened: The print inside the frame started moving downward as it was slowly shredded. Per the Financial Times, via Vice, the shredding took place "by a mechanism apparently hidden within the base of the frame, with most of the work emerging from the bottom in strips." "We've just been Banksy'ed," Alex Branczik, Sotheby's senior director, told the crowd after the shredfest, adding he hadn't known ahead of time that this was going to happen and that "tonight we saw a little piece of Banksy genius."
There are whispers that Banksy himself was at the auction to witness his self-destructive prank, with the Art Newspaper noting "a man dressed in black sporting sunglasses and a hat was seen scuffling with security guards near the entrance … shortly after the incident." On Instagram, Banksy posted a photo of the stunned audience watching his work get obliterated, mischievously captioning it: "Going, going, gone." The buyer may not be totally out of luck: Vice notes that while sales are usually nixed if works are damaged before they leave Sotheby's, the on-site annihilation could actually make the artwork even more valuable. "It's certainly the first piece to be spontaneously shredded as an auction ends," Branczik says. (Read more Banksy stories.)