A trio of paintings by British street artist Banksy will be auctioned in London on Tuesday, with the expected proceeds of more than $1 million to be donated to a Palestinian hospital.
The triptych will go under the hammer at Sotheby’s after the artist donated them to help fund a new stroke unit and buy children’s rehabilitation equipment at a hospital in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The politically-charged works, which have been on display in the Walled Off Hotel that Banksy helped set up in 2017 in the Palestinian city, are estimated to fetch up to £1.2 million ($1.5 million, 1.3 million euros) in the auction.
The artist, whose true identity remains a secret, reworked three traditionally framed, romantic-era-style oil paintings depicting tumultuous seascapes, adding discarded life jackets and buoys, to produce the pieces entitled “Mediterranean Sea View 2017”.
They are seen as a reaction to Europe’s migrant crisis of the past decade, when hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and conflict tried to reach the continent on perilous journeys across the Mediterranean and Aegean seas.
Tens of thousands are thought to have died and the European Union’s haphazard response to the crisis has been heavily criticised.
“This work juxtaposes an historic fine art genre with grim contemporaneity,” Sotheby’s said in its sales listing for the triptych.
“Though posing as eighteenth or nineteenth-century paintings of the ‘Natural Sublime’, the present work undermines and subverts the viewer’s expectations to broach a difficult contemporary issue.”
Banksy, whose “Devolved Parliament” painting depicting lawmakers as chimps was sold at auction in October for £9.9 million — a record for the British artist — has addressed issues around refugees in numerous previous works.
In 2015, he created a dystopian theme park, Dismaland, in a British seaside town featuring boats filled with migrants and an anarchist training camp.
In another work, “The Son of a Migrant from Syria”, the artist depicted Apple co-founder Steve Jobs — who was of Syrian descent — carrying a knapsack and an Apple computer.
“We’re often led to believe migration is a drain on the country’s resources, but Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian immigrant,” he said in a rare public comment on the piece.
“Apple is the world’s most profitable company… and it only exists because they allowed in a young man from Homs”.