After mysteriously disappearing from the occupied West Bank, a painting by secret artist Banksy reappears in an art gallery in Israel under similar mysterious circumstances. Palestinian officials say the graffiti was stolen.
The street artwork – which shows a rat with a slingshot in apparent mockery of the Israeli occupation – was created by the enigmatic British artist around 2007. It appeared on a used concrete block at an abandoned Israeli army outpost in the West Bank city of Bethlehem near the Israeli separation wall. Banksy also painted several works on the same massive concrete wall, which he previously said “essentially turns Palestine into the largest open-air prison in the world.” But now, the mouse has found its way to the other side of the gigantic barrier and into the Urban Gallery in Tel Aviv, about 43 miles from where it first appeared.
“This is theft of the property of the Palestinian people,” said a spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism, Jeries Qumsiyeh. News agency. These were paintings by an international artist for Bethlehem and Palestine and for visitors to Bethlehem and Palestine. So transporting, manipulating and stealing them is definitely an illegal act.”
Unsurprisingly, the Israeli art dealer who bought a 900-pound concrete slab smeared with artwork sees the situation somewhat differently. “We brought it to the main street in Tel Aviv to show it to the public and to show its messages,” Abergel told the Associated Press. “He should be happy with it,” Abergel said, referring to Banksy, who would not comment on the artwork’s transfer.
It is unclear exactly how the extremely heavy mass exited Palestine. She had to cross at least one military checkpoint to get out of the West Bank. Abergel did not reveal how much he paid for the piece or the name of the person who bought it from him, but he insisted the deal was perfectly legal. He added that Palestinian residents cut off about 2 Suqur Square from the square and kept it in private residences until earlier this year.
Meticulous restoration work has been carried out to remove an acrylic paint letter that reads “RIP Banksy Rat” painted onto the artwork. The giant board was then wrapped in a steel frame so that it could be loaded onto a truck and transported through the checkpoint before arriving in Tel Aviv in the dead of night.
Abergel’s account for the artwork flight has not been verified. He claims that the Israeli army was not involved in its removal and that his unnamed Palestinian comrades arranged for the piece to be moved to Israel. He says he has no plans to sell the piece, which could be worth a fortune.
This isn’t the first time Banksy’s artwork has been removed from the West Bank. In 2008, his “Wet Dog” and “Stop and Search” paintings were cut from the walls of a bus shelter and butcher’s shop in Bethlehem and eventually sold to galleries in the United States and Britain.