By Nadeem Muaddi | CNN
Three paintings by Banksy have been auctioned off for $2.9 million, with the proceeds going to a Palestinian hospital.
The lot, titled ‘Mediterranean Sea View 2017’, includes three reworked oil paintings depicting romantic seascapes, to which the anonymous street artist and political activist has added life jackets and life rings to highlight the crisis European immigrants.
The “visual amendment…evokes mass death at sea,” according to Sotheby’s, which auctioned the paintings in London on Tuesday.
“Although presenting themselves as paintings of the ‘sublime natural’ from the 18th or 19th century, the current work undermines and subverts viewer expectations to address a difficult contemporary issue,” the auction house added.
The 2010s were marked by countless refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea on makeshift boats and rafts to escape armed conflict or social unrest. While many have arrived in countries like Italy and Greece, thousands have died at sea. The migrant crisis was declared over in March 2019, but refugees are still attempting the perilous journey.
Banksy’s paintings, which fetched far more than the expected price of $1-1.5million, were previously displayed in the lobby of the Walled Off Hotel, which the artist opened in Bethlehem in 2017 to attract attention on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The paintings were donated to ABCD Bethlehem, a nonprofit group that supports Palestinian children with disabilities. Proceeds from the auction will go towards the construction of an acute stroke unit and the purchase of rehabilitation equipment for children for the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation (BASR), a provider of medical, surgical and rehabilitation in the Palestinian Territories.
The England-based artist has addressed the migrant crisis in numerous works, including a 2016 portrait of late Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs holding an original Apple computer in one hand and a black bag slung over his shoulder in the other. The painting appeared in the Calais refugee camp in France.
Banksy said at the time that the portrait was meant to dispel misconceptions about migrants. “We are often led to believe that migration is a drain on the country’s resources, but Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian migrant,” the artist said. “Apple is the most profitable company in the world, it pays over $7bn (£4.6bn) a year in tax – and it only exists because it allowed a young man of Homs.”