After mysteriously disappearing from the occupied West Bank, a painting of secret artist Banksy reappeared in an art gallery in Israel under equally mysterious circumstances. Palestinian officials say the graffiti artwork was stolen.
The street art piece — showing a rat wielding a slingshot in an apparent satire of the Israeli occupation — was created by a cryptic British artist circa 2007. It appears on a concrete block used in an abandoned Israeli military site in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. near the Israeli barrier. Banksy also draw some works on the huge concrete wall itself, which he previously said “basically turns Palestine into the largest open prison in the world.” But now, the rat has found its way to the other side of the giant fence 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,” Jeries Qumsieh, a spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism, told. Related press. “These are paintings by an international artist for Bethlehem, for Palestine, and for visitors to Bethlehem and Palestine. So transferring them, manipulating them and stealing them is definitely illegal.”
Not surprisingly, the Israeli art dealer who purchased the 900-pound concrete slab with the artwork found the situation slightly different. “We took it to the main street of Tel Aviv to show the audience and show his messages,” Abergel told the AP. “He should be happy with it,” Abergel said, referring to Banksy, who did not comment on the artwork’s relocation.
It remains unclear exactly how the extremely heavy tumor came out of Palestine. It would have to go through at least one military checkpoint to get out of the West Coast. Abergel wouldn’t disclose how much he paid for the product or the name of the person he bought it from, but he insists the deal is legit. He added that the Palestinians cut about two suqare yards out of the compound and kept it in private quarters until early this year.
Careful restoration work has been done to remove the acrylic paint message that says “RIP Banksy Rat” has been scrawled on the artwork. The giant slab is then encased in a steel frame so it can be loaded onto a truck and passed through a checkpoint before arriving in Tel Aviv in the dead of night.
Abergel’s account of the artwork’s journey remains unverified. He claimed that the Israeli military was not involved in its removal and that it was his unnamed Palestinian associates who arranged for the troops to be moved to Israel. He says he has no plans to sell the work, which could be worth a fortune.
This is not the first time Banksy artwork has been removed from the West Coast. In 2008, his paintings “Wet Dog” and “Stop and Seek” were cut out of the wall of a bus shelter and butcher shop in Bethlehem and eventually sold to galleries in US and UK.