(Reuters) — Palestinian police confiscated from a Gaza graffiti artist on Thursday a bombed-out doorway bearing a Banksy painting after the original owner complained of being swindled into selling it cheap.
The artist Belal Khaled had paid 700 shekels ($175) 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 July-August war with Israel.
Banksy, a British street artist 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 $500,000.
Khaled, 23, told Reuters that police seized the painting from his home in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. They were accompanied by 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,” 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 Darduna’s lawyer, Mohammed Rihan, confirmed the 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,” Rihan said.
After buying the painting from Darduna, 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, who is from Bristol in the west of England and has never revealed his true identity.
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.