Purchaser of Banksy painting that shredded itself plans to keep it

Sotheby's auction house said the buyer is "proceeding with the purchase at the same price as was achieved in the room on the night" — nearly $1.4 million.
by Elizabeth Chuck /  / Updated 

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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.

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