By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) – A Palestinian man was lamenting his misfortune on Wednesday after selling his bombed-out doorway to a local artist without realizing that the image painted on it was by Banksy and could be worth a small fortune.
Rabea Darduna, a father of six from northern Gaza, said he sold the iron-and-brick doorway of his destroyed house to a local man who offered him 700 shekels ($175) for it.
Banksy, a British street artist who is famed for his ironic murals in unexpected places, visited Gaza earlier this year and spray-painted an image of a goddess holding her head in her hand on the door, one of a handful of paintings he did in Gaza.
“I had no idea what the value of the painting was or who this Banksy is,” a frustrated Darduna told Reuters by telephone. “If I knew I would never have sold the door so cheap.”
Banksy pieces regularly sell for more than $500,000. A mural painted on a shop in London in 2013 sold at a private auction for $1.1 million. Banksy, who is from Bristol in the west of England, has never revealed his true identity.
Darduna said he felt swindled and had been trying to call the man who bought the door but had got no reply.
“I want to get it back first, and then I can look at offers,” he said, pointing out that his house had been destroyed in last year’s war and he needed money for rent and his family.
“Next time I’ll sell it as a Banksy painting, not as an old door.”
The local man who bought it, graffiti artist and journalist Belal Khaled, said he had no plans to give the door back and no plans to sell it “at present”.
“I bought the door to preserve the painting and protect it from being removed, spoiled or destroyed,” he told Reuters, adding that he had followed Banksy for a number of years and was inspired by his work.
“Since I started as a graffiti artist it has been my dream to own a piece of Banksy art.”
Khaled said he told Darduna the painting on his door was by Banksy but it didn’t seem to register. Asked if he was thinking of selling the painting, he replied:
“I am not thinking of selling it at the present time.
“I will consider offers to display it in international galleries to speak about the suffering of Gaza and the agonies of war.”
(Writing by Luke Baker; Editing by Hugh Lawson)