Could this be the moment elusive street artist Banksy photographed his own publicity stunt?

Shocked bidders and Sotherby's staff watched in horror as that the painting, which sold for $NZ1.9 million one second was torn to shreds the next.

Experts now say that last night's stunt may have actually doubled the value of The Girl With Balloon because of the huge interest it generated, reports Daily Mail.

A picture posted onto Banksy's Instagram account showed the moment the piece was destroyed by the booby-trapped picture frame.

Advertisement

And a separate video posted on Twitter shows the stunned reaction of the packed auction house in London last night.

As the camera pans around, a curly-haired man in glasses taking a picture from the same position as the Instagram image can be seen.

He appears to have taken the picture posted online by the mysterious "graffiti guerrilla", and could have been the man himself documenting his prank in action.

View this post on Instagram

Going, going, gone...

A post shared by Banksy (@banksy) on

He is seen holding his phone and zooming in to the painting to get a good shot of the damage.

The man is wearing thick glasses, a suit, and has curly hair and if it is the man himself, could have just pressed the button to remotely trigger the shredder.

A video released by Banksy shows the auction room from several different angles, adding to speculation he may be a team of people who were all in the room at the time of the sale.

A stunned member of the auction staff can be seen on the phone to the winning bidder as the painting is destroyed in front of his eyes.

Banksy posted the clip on his Instagram but then deleted it. In it, he reveals video of himself building the shredder.

He explains: "A few years ago I secretly built a shredder into a painting in case it was ever put up for auction ..."

Over the years speculation about the identity of the artist has been rife and many different identities have claimed to "unmask" the real Banksy.

In 2008, Robin Gunningham was said to have been revealed as Banksy when a Mail on Sunday investigation published a pictures supposedly at work, but his representatives denied it was him.

He was said to have been filmed spraying graffiti in Melbourne, Australia and Jamaica.

Robin Gunningham was named as street artist Banksy, which he claimed was untrue. Photo / Supplied
Robin Gunningham was named as street artist Banksy, which he claimed was untrue. Photo / Supplied

Eight years later, scientists said investigation identifying Gunningham as "the only serious suspect" was correct, when researchers at Queen Mary University of London used "geographic profiling" to tie him to his work on a pub, playing fields and a house.

Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack was touted as the anonymous artist last year when fellow Bristol-based DJ Goldie and friend appeared to name him a personal friend, in an interview.

Investigators claimed to have matched up Massive Attack's touring schedule with appearances by art by Banksy.

Goldie said: "No disrespect to Rob, I think he is a brilliant artist. I think he has flipped the world of art over."

Sightings of the secretive artists walking away from finished pieces have also been reported over the years.

In 2004 a photo showing a man wearing a high-vis jacket appearing to start work on a giant painting of a giant white rat on the White Horse pub in Liverpool.

Then in 2007 William Kasper, from London, believed he had unmasked Bansky with pictures that later turned out to be James Ame, also known as aka AM72, a UK painter who lives in Israel.

Video footage taken in Bristol in 2010 showed a man in a hoodie and a painter's mask using stencils to spray graffiti on an underpass.

It was claimed in 2014 he was named Paul Horner, 35, and mugshot was provided stating he had been arrested in "sting operation", but it was a false story.

In 2015, fans were convinced they spotted a man who they thought might look like Banksy outside his Dismaland installation in Weston-super-Mare, but it was later revealed to be a parking attendant from the local council.

Last year Jason Stellios took a photo in a courtyard close to the Chapel of the Milk Grotto in Bethlehem that showed a man dressed in a distinctive fedora hat with shorts and Nike trainers.

The middle-aged man is seen looking nervously over his shoulder as he clutches a stencil and aerosol can and walking away from a freshly spray Banksy work.

But again the artist claimed the sighting was not him.

He said in an interview: "I haven't seen the photo but I can categorically tell you it's not me. Especially if it is."

Banksy was also claimed to have been pictured this year after one of his pieces appeared on a disused bridge in Hull.

The photos of the man wearing a cap and sunglasses sitting in a van were taken before Banksy had even claimed the art as his own.

There are also theories Banksy is not be just one person, but a collective of artists working around the world with a standardised style.

Today Joey Syer, co-founder of MyArtBroker, said the piece may actually be worth more now it has been shredded.

He added: "The auction result will only propel this further and given the media attention this stunt has received, the lucky buyer would see a great return on the £1.04million they paid last night.

"This is now part of art history in its shredded state and we'd estimate Banksy has added at a minimum 50 per cent increase to it's value, possibly as high as being worth £2million plus."

The Girl With Balloon, which was signed and acquired from Banksy by a mystery buyer in 2006, was the final piece auctioned in a contemporary art sale on Friday night.

The framed stencil painting is one of Banksy's most recognised murals, and the original appeared on a shop wall in east London, depicting a girl reaching towards a heart-shaped balloon.

It is not known who the successful bidder is but Sotheby's said they are talking to them and that they were "surprised" by the bizarre stunt.

Sotheby's described the work ahead of the sale as "authenticated by Pest Control", the handling services organisation that acts on Banksy's behalf. It was signed and dedicated on the reverse and had been acquired by the vendor directly from the artist in 2006, the auction house said.

But there is speculation that the shredded art could be fake. It is not known who bought the work from Banksy in 2006 and whether or not they were in on the stunt.

In 2007 Sotheby's sold three of Banksy's works. The day after the sale he updated his website with an image of an auction house and the people bidding on a picture with the written words "I Can't Believe You Morons Actually Buy This S**t".