Bristol mosque auctions Banksy gorilla mural as artist’s Monet parody fetches £7.6m

City’s Jalalabad Islamic Centre will use money raised to fund refurb and boost local charities

Left: The restored 'Masked Gorilla' Banksy. Right: The spot it was removed from at the Jalalabad Islamic Centre. Courtesy Exposed Walls
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A Bristol Islamic centre is to sell one of Banksy’s earliest works to fund the refurbishment of its crumbling mosque.

News of the mural going up for sale came as the artist's Show Me the Monet painting fetched £7.6 million ($9.95m) at a London auction.

There was confusion in Bristol last month when Banksy’s illustration of a gorilla wearing a pink mask was removed from an exterior wall of the Jalalabad Islamic Centre. It had adorned the wall– in the west of England city from which Banksy supposedly hails – since 2001.

Now it has emerged that Bristol mosque owner Saeed Ahmed will sell the 100kg mural next month to pay for the building’s upkeep and support the local community. He had the artwork painted over in 2011, unaware of its value, but it has since been reinstated.

"The reason for selling is because the building is falling to pieces and we wanted to safeguard the piece,” Mr Ahmed said.

"We are also giving money back to local charities in the Bristol area, which I will provide to charities like Developing Health and Independence in Bristol,” he added.

The group helps support people who have been afflicted by homelessness and drug and alcohol abuse.

The auction will be staged by restoration company Exposed Walls, which undertook the removal. Wayne Rock from the firm said it took four to five days of hard graft to carry out the procedure.

"It's quite a complex job because it's on render. One of the most difficult jobs is to cut a piece of render out in its whole entirety without it crumbling," he told The National.

Mr Rock said Mr Ahmed “didn’t realise it was an iconic piece”.

“The mosque just needed refurbishing. A lot of people were doing criminal damage to the building, so he wanted to get a better CCTV system and things like that,” Mr Rock said.

"He had about six or seven different pieces of blatant scribble all over his building and he felt quite uncomfortable with that. It's got some architectural damage as well on the outside, cracked walls and stuff like that, that needed dealing with. It's just wasn't in an all-round good shape, the building."
Reinvesting the money raised at auction into the community was very important, he said.

"Art enriches lives and it's a part of our mission to ensure that it is well looked after and all restoration was intricately done," Mr Rock said.

At 9.30am local time on Thursday, bidding stood at £180,500, with the auction set to close on November 17.

Meanwhile, Banksy's oil painting parodying Claude Monet's The Water-Lily Pond sold for £7,551,600 at Sotheby's after a bidding battle.

Show Me the Monet was created in 2005, as part of a collection called The Crude Oils. It was first shown publicly in what was Banksy's second gallery exhibition.

Sotheby’s, the auctioneer, said: "The hammer came down after five determined collectors battled for nearly nine minutes to drive the final price beyond its estimate of £3m-5m to become the second highest price for the artist at auction.”

The painting takes a different look at Monet's piece, depicting a Japanese-style bridge in the French impressionist’s famous garden at Giverny transformed into a modern-day fly-tipping spot.

Instead of an idyllic lily pond, it shows discarded shopping trolleys and a fluorescent orange traffic cone floating in the water beneath the bridge.

"Ever prescient as a voice of protest and social dissent, here Banksy shines a light on society's disregard for the environment in favour of the wasteful excesses of consumerism," said Alex Branczik, Sotheby's European Head of Contemporary Art.

"Recent years have seen seminal Banksys come to auction, but this is one of his strongest, and most iconic, to appear yet."