Gaza police confiscate Banksy door at center of dispute

Story highlights

Rabea Darduna's Gaza home was destroyed last year; he sold his door to bring in some money

On Thursday, Gaza police seized the door, which had originally been sold for $175 U.S.

Some of Banksy's art has sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars

CNN —  

A door bearing a graffiti drawing by British artist Banksy was seized by police in Gaza on Thursday after a dispute over its sale, a Gaza police official told CNN on Thursday.

The owner of the door, Rabea Darduna, filed a complaint with a Gaza court stating that, without realizing its value, he sold the door for just $175 U.S.

The iron door will remain in the possession of the Khan Younis police in southern Gaza until a court hearing at a date yet to be determined.

When Darduna’s Gaza home was destroyed in last summer’s war, he says he felt he was left with nothing. Only a doorway and a door. He sold the door to bring in some money to care for his six children, not realizing the prize he had.

“We sold it as we would sell an iron door,” Darduna said Monday, “for $175. And the man took it.”

Darduna says he was duped into believing the door was a normal door when it was really a canvas for Banksy, one of the world’s most famous graffiti artists, who had painted a Greek goddess with her head in her hand. The door was likely worth a small fortune – a fortune Darduna gave away for a fraction of its value.

“Things started becoming clear that the artist is worldwide famous, and he drew it secretly,” said Darduna. “[The buyer] used us. My house is demolished. We’re destroyed emotionally. We ask him to return the door.”

Banksy’s graffiti in Gaza has become an attraction after he visited in February and painted a series of political messages. His works adorn walls and homes turning rubble into riches. Some of Banksy’s art has sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Banksy has never revealed his identity, but he is an English graffiti artist who began displaying his work in the early 1990s. His street art often portrays political and social messages.

Mohammed Alshanbari says he’s had offers for Banksy’s portrait of a cat playing with a ball of mangled metal, but he refuses to sell.

In text accompanying the image on his official website, Banksy wrote: “A local man came up and said ‘Please – what does this mean?’ I explained I wanted to highlight the destruction in Gaza by posting photos on my website – but on the internet people only look at pictures of kittens.”

Alshanbari says he’s looking after the mural on the wall where his house once stood.

“A lot of people showed up and people asked to buy it, but I’m keeping it, and I won’t sell it,” he says. “It’s a graffiti from the most famous artist in the world, and I can’t give it away. It stands where the house used to stand. I cleared a lot of rubble, but left the wall.”

CNN’s Talal Abu-Rahma reported from Gaza and CNN’s Steve Almasy reported from Atlanta. CNN’s Salma Abdelaziz and Oren Liebermann contributed to this report.