An 800-kilogram boulder covered in graffiti by mysterious English street artist Banksy has found its way to an art gallery in Tel Aviv following a zealous rescue mission following an attempted vandalism in Bethlehem.
Despite his worldwide fame, Banksy’s true identity remains unknown to the world. The famed artist is known for his creative and controversial works, the most memorable of which is a series of “Girl with Balloon” stencil paintings that were intentionally destroyed and then sold in half-crushed form for over $20 million.
The graffiti master, who spreads social and political messages through his work, has repeatedly used an image of rats in his art.
The boulder that ended up in Tel Aviv also shows a rat, this time holding a slingshot. Some experts say this symbolizes David and Goliath, the biblical story with a moral that size and strength are not necessarily the deciding factors in a battle between strong and weak opponents.
The piece was painted on the West Bank Separation Wall during Banksy’s visit to Bethlehem 15 years ago as a sign of protest against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. The rat was sprayed on an abandoned IDF guard post riddled with bullet holes.
The boulder with the symbolic graffiti drawing was sawed off by local residents from the abandoned sentry post and taken to Bethlehem, where it remained for a number of years.
However, the spot on the stone where the art stood was later vandalized and locals replaced it with graffiti that read ‘RIP Banksy rat’.
While it is not known exactly who damaged the stone, some predict that local Christians had most of the means to do so, as they feel their ownership of the city is under threat from the local Muslim population.
An international art dealer, who asked not to be identified, explained that Banksy unintentionally found himself in the middle of a city housing dispute, even though his main goal was to bring about justice.
However, this provocation failed to ruin the artwork. Banksy tricked the vandals by using turpentine spray paint, which allowed the graffiti to be restored to its original state after a thorough wash with water.
For years the boulder was kept in a building that was recently scheduled for demolition. After understanding the situation, the art dealer said a decision was made to work with Bethlehem authorities to save the valuable artwork. A crane was used to pull out the heavy boulder, which was then transported to a gallery in Tel Aviv.
“So far, the artwork is with us,” said a source at the gallery. “As far as we know, we are the only ones in Israel who have a Banksy creation. Your value is very high. We’re still thinking about our next step. It is likely that we will hold an exhibition along with our other creations before they go on sale.”