LONDON (AP) — A work by British street artist Banksy that sensationally self-destructed just after it was auctioned three years ago fetched almost £18.6m ($25.4m) on Thursday – a record for the artist and close to 20 times. pre-fragmented price.
“Love is in the Thousand” was presented by Sotheby’s in London with pre-sale estimates of £4m to £6m ($5.5m to $8.2m).
After a 10-minute bidding battle involving nine bidders in the sales hall, online and over the phone, it was sold at triple the high estimate to an undisclosed buyer. The selling price of £18,582,000 ($25,383,941) includes an auction house fee known as a buyer’s premium.
The piece consists of a half-torn canvas in an ornate frame that features a spray-painted image of a girl reaching for a red heart-shaped balloon.
When last sold at Sotheby’s in October 2018, the piece was known as “Girl with Balloons”. Just as an anonymous European female buyer submitted the winning bid for £1 million ($1.4 million), a hidden shredder that Banksy had placed in the frame came to life and hung half the canvas in strips from the frame.
Sotheby’s drew some criticism for failing to detect the hidden shredder at the time. But the 2018 buyer has decided to continue with the purchase, a decision confirmed Thursday as the price of the business rises.
The work quickly became one of Banksy’s most famous, and Sotheby’s sent it on tour to cities like New York and Hong Kong before Thursday’s auction.
Auctioneer Oliver Barker joked that he was “afraid” to lower the hammer to close Thursday’s sale. There were concerns among Sotheby’s employees that Banksy was planning another surprise.
Alex Branczik. Sotheby’s head of modern and contemporary art described the shred as “one of the most ingenious moments in performance art this century.”
“It has been a whirlwind to follow the journey of this now legendary piece and come back among us, presenting it tonight in the room where it was created by the artist,” Branczik said. “Banksy is no stranger to making headlines, and this latest chapter in her story has captured imaginations around the world – we can only begin to guess what’s next.”
Never confirming his full identity, Banksy began his career spray painting buildings in Bristol, England, and has become one of the world’s best-known artists. His mischievous and often satirical images include two male police officers kissing, armed riot police with a yellow smiley face, and a chimpanzee holding a sign that reads, “Laugh now, but one day I’ll be responsible.”
Some of his works have sold millions at auction. In March, a Banksy mural honoring Britain’s healthcare workers and first painted on a hospital wall sold for £16.8m ($23.2m) at Christie’s, breaking an artist record until Thursday.
“Girl with a Balloon” was originally stenciled on a wall in East London and has been reproduced endlessly, making it one of Banksy’s best-known images.