But the evening’s true fireworks didn’t come until the very end of both sales, at Sotheby’s, when ’s
iconic Girl With Balloon
(2006), which was installed beside the back rostrum, came up for sale. The work attracted feverish bidding in the room and on the phones, racing past its high estimate of £300,000 to hammer at £860,000, or just over £1 million ($1.3 million with fees). As the gavel slammed, a siren rang out through the salesroom and everyone stood stunned as the Banksy canvas slid through the frame that it was contained in and emerged underneath—but shredded.
Confusion erupted throughout the salesroom, but it seems that the art world’s biggest prankster concocted a scheme in which his work would get destroyed as soon as it was sold. The spray painted work of the girl with a red balloon, acquired directly from the artist, came in what the catalogue called “the artist’s frame”—a frame that was oddly thick for such a small work of
. A source at Sotheby’s, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the Banksy camp had insisted on securing an unusually high number of seats for the sale. Some onlookers reported seeing one of these people with a device in his hand after the shredding happened, and that he was detained by security as he tried to leave.
“We have not experienced a work spontaneously shredding after it sells for a million pounds,” Branczik said at the press conference.
He absolutely denied any knowledge that such an act was coming.
“We got Banksy’d,” he said.
The salesroom calmed down for long enough that a
from the Teiger collection that went unsold earlier in the evening could get brought back out for another go. Branczik jousted with senior specialist Martin Klosterfelde and the work eventually sold for £370,000 ($485,018) with fees, well below the original £800,000 low estimate.