The most famous painting of a street artist who's identity is a mystery is shredded to a pieces after a secret mechanism concealed in the frame was activated seconds after the painting was sold.

The historic moment the Girl With Red Balloon self-shredded to strips
The historic moment the Girl With Red Balloon self-shredded to strips. Photo: YouTube Screenshot

(— October 7, 2018) — Banksy’s art “self-destructed” just moments after its sale for more than $1.4 million, the BBC reports.

The Red Balloon Girl, one of the most famous paintings by Banksy, an artist of unknown identity, was one of the main attractions of the auction of Sotheby’s auction house, where pieces of contemporary art were sold on Friday night in London.

Showing a girl moving to a bright red heart-shaped balloon, the work made in spray paint and an acrylic paint on canvas is one of the most famous paintings of this artist. The auction house stated that the picture was signed and that experts concluded it is an original which the owner received from the author in 2006. The identity of author was not disclosed. 

The auction winner made a telephone call at about 21h and offered a significantly more than what was the estimated value of about 200-300,000 pounds.
But just after the auction manager slammed the hammer closing the sale, the image started to slip down through its massive frame which shredded it into pieces.

It is believed that it was destroyed by the author himself with a remote-activated mechanism which he concealed within the frame. Banksy posted a picture of the moment it happened on his Instagram, with the words: “Going, going, gone…” Also, the video of a hooded man installing the shredding device into a picture frame emerged on social networks allegedly showing Banksy himself messaging that it is going to activate if a painting ever goes to an auction.

“We’ve just been Banksy’d,” said Alex Branczik, senior director at Sotheby’s, on Friday. “He is arguably the greatest British street artist, and tonight we saw a little piece of Banksy genius.”

This unprecedented event left the buyer without the painting for which he just spent $1.4 million. It is not clear, however, if the contract still stands.

Reportedly, if the artwork is damaged when it is in the auction house, the buyer is not expected to transfer the money and take over the artwork.

There are voices that claim this unprecedented “instant art world history” is nothing more than a hoax. “Nobody thought it was weird for the frame to have a power source (for the shredder) or the fact that there were blades in the frame?” one post reads claiming it was all a “pre-planned stunt.”