Banksy painting sprayed in West Bank resurfaces in Tel Aviv

  • 4 min read
  • Aug 05, 2022

Banksy painting sprayed in West Bank resurfaces in Tel Aviv

A painting by secret British graffiti artist Banksy, mysteriously moved from the occupied West Bank, is revealed at a city gallery in Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022.  A painting of a rat with a slingshot once stood near the separation of Israel.  The barrier was one of several works created in 2007 that protested Israel's decades-long occupation of lands that Palestinians want for a future state.  (AP Photo/Odd Balilty)

A painting by secret British graffiti artist Banksy, mysteriously moved from the occupied West Bank, is revealed at a city gallery in Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. A painting of a rat with a slingshot once stood near the separation of Israel. The barrier was one of several works created in 2007 that protested Israel’s decades-long occupation of lands that Palestinians want for a future state. (AP Photo/Odd Balilty)

AP

A long-lost painting by British graffiti artist Banksy has resurfaced at an art gallery in downtown Tel Aviv, an hour’s drive and a world away from the cement wall in the occupied West Bank where it was first sprayed. .

The removal of the painting – which depicts a slingshot mouse and was probably intended to protest the Israeli occupation – raises ethical questions about removing artworks from occupied territories and displaying such political works in places completely different from where they represent. he does. were created

The painting was first shown near Israel’s separation wall in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem and was one of several created in secret in 2007. They used Banksy’s trademark absurd and dystopian imagery to protest Israel’s decades-long occupation of lands claimed by the Palestinians. future state

It now resides in an urban gallery in the heart of Tel Aviv’s financial district, surrounded by glass and steel skyscrapers.

“It’s the story of David and Goliath,” said Kobi Abergel, the Israeli art dealer who bought the painting, without elaborating on the simile. He said that the gallery simply displays the work and leaves its interpretation to others.

The Associated Press could not independently verify the piece’s authenticity, but Abergel said the cracks and scratches in the concrete act as “fingerprints” that prove it is the piece that appears on the artist’s website.

The 70 km (43 mi) journey he made from the West Bank to Tel Aviv is shrouded in mystery. The 900-pound concrete slab had to pass through Israel’s spiral barrier and at least one military checkpoint—daily features of Palestinian life and targets of Banksy’s biting satire.

Abergel, who is a partner in the Tel Aviv gallery, said he bought the concrete slab from a Palestinian colleague in Bethlehem. He declined to disclose the amount he paid or identify the seller, but insisted the transaction was legal.

The graffiti artwork was spray-painted on a concrete block that was part of an abandoned Israeli army position in Bethlehem, next to a towering concrete section of the Separation Wall.

Sometime later, the painting was graffitied by someone who hid the painting and scrawled “RIP Bansky Rat” on the block. Abergel said Palestinian residents cut the painting and kept it in private homes until earlier this year.

The move, he said, required delicate negotiations with his Palestinian colleague and a careful restoration to remove the acrylic paint splattered on Banksy’s work. The massive block was then encased in a steel frame so it could be lifted onto a flatbed truck and passed through a checkpoint until it arrived in Tel Aviv in the middle of the night.

It was not possible to independently confirm his account of its journey.

The piece now rests on an ornate tile floor, surrounded by other contemporary art. Baruch Kashkesh, owner of the gallery, said that the approximately 2 square meter (yard) block was so heavy that it had to be brought in by crane and was difficult to fit through the door.

Israel controls all access to the West Bank and Palestinians need an Israeli permit to travel in or out and to import and export goods. Even while traveling in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers can stop and search them at any time.

Israeli citizens, including Jewish settlers, can move freely in and out of the 60 percent of the West Bank that is under full Israeli control. Israel prohibits its citizens from entering areas administered by the Palestinian Authority for security reasons, but there is little enforcement of this ban.

Palestinians have spent decades seeking an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, territories captured by Israel in a 1967 war. The peace process stopped more than 10 years ago.

Abergel said the movement of the artwork was not coordinated with the Israeli army and that his Palestinian colleagues, whom he declined to name, were responsible for transporting it to Israel and passing through military checkpoints. He said he has no plans to sell this piece.

According to the international treaty governing cultural property that Israel has signed, the occupying powers must prevent the removal of cultural property from the occupied territories. It is not clear exactly how the 1954 Hague Convention will apply in this case.

Jaris Qamsiyah, the spokesman of the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism, said: This is the theft of the property of the Palestinian people. “These were paintings by an international artist for Bethlehem, Palestine, and visitors to Bethlehem and Palestine. Therefore, transferring them, manipulating and stealing them is definitely an illegal act.”

The Israeli military and COGAT, the Israeli Defense Ministry body responsible for coordinating civilian affairs with the Palestinians, said they had no knowledge of the artwork or its movement.

Banksy has created several works of art in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in recent years, including one of a girl performing a body search on an Israeli soldier, another of a dove wearing a vest, and a A masked protester throwing a bouquet of flowers. He also designed the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, which is filled with his artwork.

A spokesman for Banksy did not respond to requests for comment.

This is not the first time that the work of this street artist leaves the West Bank. In 2008, two more paintings – “Wet Dog” and “Stop and Search” – were removed from the walls of a bus shelter and a butcher shop in Bethlehem. They were eventually acquired by galleries in the United States and the United Kingdom, where they were exhibited in 2011.

Abergel says it’s up to viewers to draw conclusions about the artwork and its implications.

“We brought it to the main street of Tel Aviv to show the audience and show his messages,” Abergel said. He should be satisfied with that.”

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Scharf reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writer Arij Hezbon in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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