LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
And some news from the art world now. The secretive artist Banksy is known for the political street art he paints in cities around the world. On Friday night, one of his paintings of a small girl and a heart-shaped red balloon just out of reach went to auction at Sotheby's in London and sold for almost $1.4 million. But the room and, presumably, the painting's anonymous buyer were in for a surprise. I asked New York magazine's art critic Jerry Saltz to explain.
JERRY SALTZ: As it was being sold, and the hammer went down over $1 million, suddenly, it started to rumble and buzz, and the canvas sort of disappeared down into the frame and came out beneath it shredded. It was fantastic.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What was the reaction?
SALTZ: Well, I think people were horrified, amazed, shocked. The market is such a kind of dumb organism. People in the market buy what other people in the market buy. And suddenly, one of the things they are buying changed. So he pranked them. Maybe it is only a prank, but, God, it felt good.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do we know if Sotheby's had an idea that this was going to happen and, of course, the person who spent quite a bit of money on the artwork?
SALTZ: I don't know. The shock of it is part of what makes it good. But I like that, somehow, an artist - an artist that I don't necessarily like - really was able to disrupt the system, if only for a minute.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I know you don't like the idea of the market and how influential it is on artists' work. But will this work now be even more valuable, even shredded, because it has garnered so much attention?
SALTZ: Well, that's the insidious thing about it, isn't it? - that the market, as I say, only buys what other people in the market have bought. So now everyone will want a shredded Banksy.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Jerry Saltz from New York magazine, thank you very much.
(SOUNDBITE OF ANTI-LILLY AND PHONIKS SONG, "LOOSE PRAYERS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.