Banksy prank ‘a coup on the art world’

An auction house has called a prank by the secretive street artist Banksy which partially shred a £1 million painting immediately after it was sold at auction a “coup on the art world”.

The anonymous artist’s Girl With Balloon was bought for £1.04 million by a European art collector at a Sotheby’s sale on October 5.

But almost as soon as the hammer fell, the canvas was passed through a secret shredder hidden in the large Victorian-style frame, leaving the bottom half in tatters and only a solitary red balloon left on a white background in the frame.

But the artwork was granted certification by Pest Control, Banksy’s authentication body, and has been given the new title Love Is In The Bin.

Sotheby’s confirmed that the buyer, a long-standing female client of the prestigious auction house, has agreed to buy the work for the price agreed at auction.

The auction house’s head of contemporary art, Europe Alex Branczik said this is believed to be the first time a new artwork has been created during an auction.

He told the Press Association he initially thought the painting had fallen out of its frame but then an alarm went off in the frame and he realised the auction house had been “Banksyed”.

Mr Branczik added: “When I saw the picture had dropped I thought ‘oh no’ but when I realised it was a Banksy intervention I think I laughed.

“I took it for what it was, a coup on the art world.”

He said the initial feeling in the busy auction hall was “consternation” but then everyone realised it was a prank by the artist.

Mr Branczik added: “The work wasn’t destroyed, it was created, destruction is a form of creation.

“We are definitely not the first and won’t be the last art establishment to be the platform for Banksy to make his art.”

In a statement the buyer, who has not been named, said: “When the hammer came down last week and the work was shredded, I was at first shocked, but gradually I began to realise that I would end up with my own piece of art history.”

Girl With Balloon appeared on a wall in Great Eastern Street, London.

The framed, stencil spray painting shows a girl reaching towards a heart-shaped balloon.

The gallery version featured spray paint and acrylic on canvas, mounted on a board.

The lot was estimated to sell for £200,000 to £300,000 before the auction.

It is not known how the shredder was installed in the frame or how the anonymous artist timed his stunt.

Banksy rose to prominence through a series of graffiti pieces that appeared on buildings across the country, marked by deeply satirical undertones.

Last week’s self-destruction was the latest in a long history of anti-establishment statements by the street artist.

Other recent works included the opening of Dismaland, his dystopian, Disneyland-esque theme park in 2015, which he described as a “family theme park unsuitable for children”.