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A buyer who purchased a painting by provocative street artist Banksy for $1.4 million, only to have it shred itself moments later, will keep the piece of artwork, according to auction house Sotheby’s.
The bottom half of the canvas “Girl With Balloon” — one of Banksy’s most famous works — started descending through a shredder hidden inside the painting’s frame right after the hammer fell at auction on Oct. 5 in London, as stunned art collectors looked on.
Sotheby’s announced on Thursday that the purchaser had decided to keep the altered artwork.
“The buyer, a female European collector and a long-standing client of Sotheby’s, is proceeding with the purchase at the same price as was achieved in the room on the night,” it said.
The 1,042,000-pound, or nearly $1.4 million, bid matched the all-time record for Banksy, a mysterious artist known for biting political graffiti whose true identity has not been made public.
The prank appeared to have been his doing: Later, he shared a video on his Instagram account explaining that he had put the shredder inside the frame years ago, with a caption that read, “The urge to destroy is also a creative urge,” a quote he attributed to Picasso but was actually said by Mikhail Bakunin, a 19th-century Russian who was a leading theorist of anarchism.
Sotheby’s claimed it had no involvement in the prank and was just as surprised as everyone else. The auction house said the resulting, half-shredded piece of artwork had been given a new name, “Love is in the Bin.”
“In the process of ‘destroying’ the artwork, a new one was created,” Sotheby’s said.
In a statement through Sotheby’s, the buyer said, “When the hammer came down last week and the work was shredded, I was at first shocked, but gradually I began to realize that I would end up with my own piece of art history.”
Her decision to keep it may pay off: Experts say the stunt is certain to elevate the painting’s worth.
“It’s become worth more as a conceptual moment than as a work of art itself,” Offer Waterman, a 20th-century British art dealer, told The New York Times.