Banksy piece worth $2.7m shreds itself in front of shocked bidders

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Auctioneers at an art sale were left aghast after a work by mysterious street artist Banksy self-destructed moments after it had been sold for more than $1.7 million.

For an artist that's known for his stunts, this could be Banksy's most flawless art world prank.

According to The Art Newspaper, a copy of Banksy's iconic "Girl with Balloon" painting was auctioned at Sotheby's in New York City on Friday night.

The artist himself posted a photo of the shredded work on his Instagram page with the caption, "Going, going, gone".

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As soon as the "girl with balloon" painting was sold to a phone bidder, part of the painting shredded due to a previously hidden device within the frame of the artwork.

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

Pre-auction, the piece and been estimated to go for between £200,000 and £300,000. "We are busily figuring out what this means in an auction context", he added.

The price paid in London on Friday evening matched the artist's previous record at auction for his "Keep It Spotless" piece in 2008, Sotheby's said. Branczik also said he was "not in on the ruse", which really takes it to that next level.

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Sotheby's released a statement to the Financial Times: "We have talked with the successful purchaser who was surprised by the story".

Banksy's real identity is unknown, though most accounts say he comes from Bristol where he started out as a small-time graffiti artist.

But perhaps, now known as the subject of one of the greatest pranks in the art world, Girl With Red Balloon will be worth even more in its shredded state.

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