"We've just been Banksy'ed", Alex Branczik, Sotheby's European head of contemporary art, told journalists following the auction. "It's certainly the first work to be spontaneously shredded as an auction ends".
The Art Newspaper reported that a man wearing sunglasses had tangled with security guards near the entrance of the Sotheby's auction house.
Sotheby's, which could not be immediately reached for further comment on Saturday, did not disclose if it had prior knowledge of the stunt. The buyer may not be totally out of luck: Vice notes that while sales are usually nixed if works are damaged before they leave Sotheby's, the on-site annihilation could actually make the artwork even more valuable. "We are busily figuring out what this means in an auction context", he added.
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.
He claimed he had no idea the artwork was going to be destroyed.
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Bristol-born artist Banksy came to prominence through a series of satirical graffiti pieces that appeared on buildings across the country.
His "Happy Choppers" from 2006 fetched $735,000 also on Friday at a NY auction of personal effects owned by the late actor Robin Williams and his wife.
As soon as the hammer struck on the winning bid, an alarm started sounding and the painting began to slowly drop down through its frame - which just so happened to be a shredder - tearing up the print in the process.
It was instantly recognisable as a Banksy to anyone familiar with his work.
"Banksy did it again to the art market that he so despises", he said.