Gaza police seize Banksy painting in legal row

The artwork's original owner claims to have been swindled after only being paid 700 shekals for the piece. Banksy paintings usually sell for more than half a million dollars

Artist Belal Khaled paid 700 shekels (Dh653) for this image of a goddess holding her head in her hand, which had been spray-painted on Rabea Darduna’s iron-and-brick doorway as it stood among the ruins of his Gazan home, destroyed in the summer war. Mohammed Saber/EPA
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GAZA // Palestinian police have confiscated a Banksy painting from a Gaza graffiti artist after the original owner complained of being swindled into selling it cheap.

The artist Belal Khaled paid 700 shekels (Dh653) for the image of a goddess holding her head in her hand, which had been spray-painted on Rabea Darduna’s iron-and-brick doorway as it stood among the ruins of his home, destroyed in the summer war.

Mr Darduna said he did not realise the image had been spray-painted by the British street artist and could be worth a small fortune.

Banksy, who is famed for his ironic murals in unexpected places, visited Gaza this year and left several paintings on the outside walls of buildings, some of them ruins. His pieces regularly sell for more than US$500,000 (Dh1,836,500).

Mr Khaled, 23, said that police had seized the painting from his home in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. They were accompanied by Mr Darduna, a civil servant.

“The policemen took the door away and they told me it would be held in accordance with a court order because there was a lawsuit against me,” Mr Khaled said. “I am the true owner of the door now, and I will seek to establish this in court.”

A police spokesman had no immediate comment, but Mr Darduna’s lawyer, Mohammed Rihan, confirmed that claims to the Bansky painting were under court review.

“I will seek to return the door to its true owner, Rabea Darduna. My client was cheated,” Mr Rihan said.

Mr Khaled said last week he had wanted to protect the Banksy mural from neglect and that he had always wanted to own a work by the reclusive artist. Banksy, who is from Bristol in the west of England, has never revealed his true identity.

Mr Khaled has said he had no plans to sell the doorway “at the present time”. A Banksy mural painted on a shop in London in 2013 sold at a private auction for $1.1 million.

* Reuters