Banksy painting raises millions for Palestinian children’s hospital

1 / 2
One of the three canvases in Banksy’s triptych, “Mediterranean Sea View 2017.” (Photo courtesy/Sotheby's)
2 / 2
The money raised will be put toward an acute stroke unit and children’s rehabilitation equipment. (Shutterstock)
Short Url
Updated 30 July 2020

Banksy painting raises millions for Palestinian children’s hospital

  • The work was based on three romantic-period oil paintings of the sea
  • In recent years, the twin issues of the Mediterranean migration crisis and the Israel-Palestine conflict have played a major role in his work

LONDON: A triptych by British artist Banksy of the Mediterranean Sea depicting the European refugee crisis has sold for more than £2.2 million ($2.9 million) at auction in London.

The three-paneled work, “Mediterranean Sea View 2017,” was put up for sale at Sotheby’s auction house on July 29, where it was initially expected to fetch £1.2 million for a children’s hospital in the West Bank, the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation.

The money raised will be put toward an acute stroke unit and children’s rehabilitation equipment.

The work was based on three romantic-period oil paintings of the sea, and depicted life jackets, oars and other detritus on the shore from abandoned refugee boats — a comment on the mass movement of people from the Middle East and North Africa to Europe due to a series of ongoing natural and man-made events, including the wars in Iraq, Syria and Libya.

“In ‘Mediterranean Sea View 2017,’ Banksy corrupts three found oil paintings with his own witty re-workings to create something that, while posing as a 19th-century seascape, spotlights one of the burning issues of the 21st century,” said Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s head of contemporary art for Europe.

“This triptych hangs in Sotheby’s galleries alongside works by some of history’s greatest landscape painters, including Bellotto, Van Goyen and Turner. Banksy’s work, however, stands alone for its potent political message.”

Banksy, who keeps his true identity a well-guarded secret, rose to international prominence on the back of graffiti art with strong themes of political and social commentary.

In recent years, the twin issues of the Mediterranean migration crisis and the Israel-Palestine conflict have played a major role in his work.

In 2015, he created an interactive work in the form of dystopian theme park “Dismaland,” in the British town of Weston-super-Mare, featuring refugee boats and anarchist themes.

He also opened the Walled-Off Hotel in Bethlehem in 2017, a play on the name of the famous Waldorf hotel chain.

The Walled-Off Hotel boasts the “worst view of any hotel in the world,” located next to Israel’s barrier wall in the West Bank.

Guests can experience just 25 minutes of direct sunlight per day. “Mediterranean Sea View 2017” had previously hung in the hotel. 

In “The Son of a Migrant from Syria,” daubed on a wall in a French migrant camp dubbed “The Jungle” in the port of Calais in 2015, Banksy showed the deceased billionaire founder of tech giant Apple, Steve Jobs, as a refugee, carrying nothing but a sack of belongings and an early Apple computer. Jobs’s biological father Abdulfattah Jandali was from the Syrian city of Homs. 

Banksy’s most recent work involved spraying a train carriage on the London Underground with messages about COVID-19.

Controversy was caused when it emerged that it was removed as part of routine cleaning by the network’s operator, Transport for London.


Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

Updated 01 October 2020

Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

  • Captured gang tells of route to Yemen through base in Somalia

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: A captured gang of arms smugglers has revealed how Iran supplies weapons to Houthi militias in Yemen through a base in Somalia.

The Houthis exploit poverty in Yemen to recruit fishermen as weapons smugglers, and send fighters to Iran for military training under cover of “humanitarian” flights from Yemen to Oman, the gang said.

The four smugglers have been interrogated since May, when they were arrested with a cache of weapons in Bab Al-Mandab, the strategic strait joining the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

In video footage broadcast on Yemeni TV, gang leader Alwan Fotaini, a fisherman from Hodeidah, admits he was recruited by the Houthis in 2015. His recruiter, a smuggler called Ahmed Halas, told him he and other fishermen would be based in the Somali coastal city of Berbera, from where they would transport weapons and fuel to the Houthis. 

In late 2015, Fotaini traveled to Sanaa and met a Houthi smuggler called Ibrahim Hassam Halwan, known as Abu Khalel, who would be his contact in Iran. 

This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security.

Dr. Theodore Karasik, Security analyst

Pretending to be relatives of wounded fighters, Fotaini, Abu Khalel, and another smuggler called Najeeb Suleiman boarded a humanitarian flight to Oman, and then flew to Iran. They were taken to the port city of Bandar Abbas, where they received training on using GPS, camouflage, steering vessels and maintaining engines.

“We stayed in Bandar Abbas for a month as they were preparing an arms shipment that we would be transporting to Yemen,” Fotaini said.

On Fotaini’s first smuggling mission, his job was to act as a decoy for another boat carrying Iranian weapons to the Houthis. “The plan was for us to call the other boat to change course if anyone intercepted our boat,” he said.

He was then sent to Mahra in Yemen to await new arms shipments. The Houthis sent him data for a location at sea, where he and other smugglers met Abu Khalel with a boat laden with weapons from Iran, which were delivered to the Houthis.

Security analyst Dr. Theodore Karasik said long-standing trade ties between Yemen and Somalia made arms smuggling difficult to stop. “This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security,” Karasik, a senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, DC, told Arab News.

“The smuggling routes are along traditional lines of communication that intermix with other maritime commerce. The temptation to look the other way is sometimes strong, so sharp attention is required to break these chains.”