Andy Warhol, the American pop-art icon of the 1960s, once described art as “anything you can get away with.” In the case of anonymous English street artist Banksy, that would just about sum this incident up. 

Art, as everyone knows, is in the wallet of the beholder. And its fans at an auction house in the United Kingdom were left speechless after a Banksy painting self destructed immediately after it was sold for 1.4 million pounds sterling (RM7.3 million).

The elusive artist known as Banksy began his career, such as it was, by spray-painting graffiti art, often in a distinctive, almost iconic, style that so captivated collectors that they actually took it off walls to sell as reproductions. 

That may not have gone down too well with the notoriously touchy Mr Banksy. Already he thought most people felt jealous because the voices only talked to him. 

But please don’t get me wrong. The artist did not suffer from biploar disorder. He enjoyed every minute of it. But he had his suspicions about pretty much everyone else and thought most people should be sent to Turkmenistan. 

And he knew his suspicions were well founded which was why even at home, and alone on his exercise bicycle, he kept an eagle eye on the bike’s rear view mirror…

…just in case. His friends knew and understood him well enough to know not to interrupt him when he was talking to himself.

But the artist did not care for galleries auctioning off his work without his permission. So he listened to the voices until 9 out of 10 agreed that the way forward was shredding. 

A hidden shredder inside the painting’s frame went off shortly after the work was sold at Sotheby’s in London in October last year. The work was pulled down through a shredding mechanism at the bottom of the frame and was promptly ripped into pieces.

This defiant act was actually orchestrated by Mr Banksy. It appeared as though the artist himself was present at the auction house, as he posted a photo to Instagram of the half-shredded painting with the caption, “Going, going, gone…”

The painting is a reproduction of one of the most iconic graffiti murals Banksy had ever produced. The original version of the image was spray painted onto a building in East London back in 2002. It was removed in 2014 after it had been covered up by boards for a number of years.

After the public witnessed the jaw-dropping demonstration, Banksy explained the stunt on social media. He wrote that he had secretly built the shredder in the painting a number of years ago in the event that it was put up for auction. When that day finally came, his elaborate stunt was realized, leaving auctioneers speechless.

But the joke could be on Banksy. 

Artist Isaiah King said in the Los Angeles Times: “If he was a lesser artist, he would have destroyed the art’s value. But because it’s Banksy it will only be worth more now.”

There’s irony for you and it was a red rag to Banksy’s bull. The auction houses should watch out.

Because long ago, the artist had decided that the way forward was a simple one liner: never settle with words what you can settle with a flamethrower.