Was Banksy in the room filming his prank as his £1million Girl with Balloon artwork self-destructed minutes after being sold?

Girl With Balloon, one of Banksy's most widely recognised works, stunned the crowd at Sotheby's in London on Friday night when it suddenly destroyed itself.

Intriguingly an image appeared on Banksy's Instagram account showing the moment the piece was destroyed by the booby-trapped picture frame.

Then a video shot by someone else present pans across the room and shows the point from which the photo was seemingly shot.

A man can be seen holding his phone and zooming into the painting.


The framed, stencil spray painting shows a girl reaching towards a heart-shaped balloon and had been the final piece sold, equalling Banksy's previous auction record of £1.04million.

But in a twist to be expected from street art's most subversive character, the canvas suddenly passed through a shredder installed in the frame.

Many in the crowd weren't sure if the painting would be worthless after seemingly being destroyed but an art broker believes its value has now actually gone up.


Joey Syer, co-founder of the website MyArtBroker.com that resells Banksy pieces, said: "The auction result will only propel this further and given the media attention this stunt has received, the lucky buyer would see a great return on the £1.02m they paid last night.

"This is now part of art history in its shredded state and we’d estimate Banksy has added at a minimum 50 per cent to its value – possibly as high as being worth £2million plus."

Posting a picture of the moment on Instagram, Banksy wrote: "Going, going, gone…"

The 2006 piece was shown dangling in pieces from the bottom of the frame.

MAN BEHIND THE MASK Who is Banksy ?

Rumours have long circulated about the true identity of street artist Banksy.

A number of people claim to have spotted him at work but no sighting has ever been officially confirmed while other clues have been used to try and unmask the legend.

  • Robin Gunningham was an early candidate to be "revealed" as the man behind Banksy in 2008. Years later researchers at Queen Mary University of London used "geographic profiling" to match the locations of Banksy paintings to a pub, playing fields and residential addresses with links to Gunningham. Representatives for the artist have denied the theory.
  • Robert Del Naja was touted as the anonymous artist in 2017 when Bristol DJ Goldie appeared to name the Massive Attack member, a personal friend, in an interview. He said: "No disrespect to Rob, I think he is a brilliant artist. I think he has flipped the world of art over."
  • Liverpool pub sighting – A photo showing a man wearing a high-vis jacket appearing to start work on a painting of a giant white rat on the White Horse pub in Liverpool in 2004 sparked speculation Banksy had finally been unmasked.
  • Bethlehem pictures – William Kasper, from London, believed he had unmasked the graffiti king with pictures captured in 2007. Members of the public later identified the painter as James Ame – also known as aka AM72 – a UK painter who lives in Israel.
  • Bristol video footage – Grainy 47-second clip shows a man in a hoodie and a painter's face mask using stencils and cardboard to spray fresh graffiti in an underpass in Bansky's native Bristol in 2010.
  • Dismaland sighting  – In 2015, fans were convinced they spotted a man who they thought might look like Banksy outside his Dismaland installation in Weston-super-Mare. But to their disappointment, it was later revealed to be a parking attendant from the local council.

Alex Branczik, Sotheby's senior director and head of contemporary art in Europe, said: "It appears we just got Banksy-ed."

Banksy is a Bristol-born artist whose true identity – despite rampant speculation – has never been officially revealed.

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

Friday'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".

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

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



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