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After the gavel fell Friday at Sotheby's auction house in London, Banksy's Girl with Balloon was reduced to shreds - another apparent act in the disruptive career of the anonymous British graffiti artist.

"We are busy figuring out what this means in an auction context", he reportedly added.

Banksy later posted a video on Instagram explaining that a few years ago he installed a shredder into the frame of the painting.

Cameras snapped, onlookers gasped, and auction room porters scrambled to remove the artwork from the wall, leaving shreds of the painting hanging from the bottom of the frame.

When Forbes magazine estimated Banksy's personal wealth at around £14 million ($A26 million), he responded with regret, saying he wished his works were worthless.

"We've just been Banksy'd", said Alex Branczik, senior director at Sotheby's, on Friday.

"When the hammer came down last week and the work was shredded, I was at first shocked, but gradually I began to realise that I would end up with my own piece of art history", she said, according to Sotheby's.

Banksy - whose identity still has yet to be confirmed - often incorporates political messaging, anti-capitalist ideas, and art world satire into his work.

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Whether the Banksy painting's final bidder is expected to pay "as is" for the painting is unclear. Sotheby's did not make the buyer's identity public following last week's unusual auction.

"The shredding is now part of the integral art work".

Social media users found Banksy's own heist method also to be "F**king brilliant!", posting support messages next to his Instagram video post.

A mystery man films the aftermath of a Banksy work shredding itself after being sold at auction.

Either way, it is not the first time Banksy has flipped notions of value on their head.

Alison Young, a professor of criminology at the University of Melbourne who has studied street art and Banksy for years, said this was far from a prank gone wrong.

"There are limited numbers of Girl With Balloon prints in the world, today, we lost one and it's a crying shame".


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