A triptych by British artist Banksy of the Mediterranean Sea depicting the refugee crisis in Europe has sold for more than £2.2 million ($2.9 million) at auction in London.
The three-panel work, ‘Mediterranean Sea View 2017’, went up for sale at auction house Sotheby’s on July 29, where it was originally expected to fetch £1.2million for a children’s hospital in the West Bank , the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation.
The money raised will be used for an acute stroke unit and rehabilitation equipment for children.
The work was based on three oil paintings of the sea from the Romantic period and depicted life jackets, oars and other rubbish on the shore of abandoned refugee boats – a commentary 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 reworkings to create something that, while presenting itself as a 19th century seascape, highlights one burning issues of the 21st century,” Alex said. Branczik, head of contemporary art for Europe at Sotheby’s.
“This triptych hangs in the 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 powerful political message.
Banksy, who keeps his true identity a closely guarded secret, gained international notoriety through graffiti art with strong themes of political and social commentary.
In recent years, the double issue of the Mediterranean migration crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has occupied a major place in his work.
In 2015 he created an interactive work in the form of a dystopian theme park “Dismaland”, in the UK 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 popular Waldorf hotel chain.
The Walled-Off Hotel enjoys the “worst view of any hotel in the world”, located next to Israel’s barrier wall in the West Bank.
Guests can enjoy just 25 minutes of direct sunlight per day. “Mediterranean Sea View 2017” had already been hung in the hotel.
In “The Son of a Migrant from Syria,” painted 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 bag of possessions and an old Apple computer. Jobs’ biological father, Abdulfattah Jandali, was from the Syrian city of Homs.
Banksy’s most recent job was spraying a train carriage on the London Underground with messages about COVID-19.
Controversy erupted when it emerged it had been removed as part of routine cleaning by network operator Transport for London.