“Banksy always surprises us and today I want to surprise him,” says Yamen Elabed, the organiser of an exhibition in tribute to the artist, which went on show earlier this week in Bethlehem.
Featuring photographs of 20 Banksy artworks from across the city, the exhibition – which aimed to show thanks to him for spotlighting the city with his work – was collated by Palestinian photographers and exhibited in Manger Square.
Banksy has created artworks in and around the city since the mid-2000s, notably spray painting the Israeli West Bank Barrier in a show of solidarity with Palestinians.
“It was a risk because during the first uprising and second uprising drawing graffiti on the wall was forbidden,” Elabed tells the Guardian. “Many people got hurt or arrested for doing graffiti. So Banksy did a lot for Palestinians.”
The artist also created a part-hotel, part-installation-artwork looking out on the barrier – aka “the worst view in the world” – back in 2017. The building, named The Walled-Off Hotel, houses other artworks that comment on the conflict between Israel and Palestine, such as Scar of Bethlehem, his take on a nativity scene.
Recently, Banksy also donated a series of refugee crisis-themed paintings from 2017, to raise funds for a hospital in the city.
The “Thank you Banksy” exhibition was attended by more than 300 people, most of whom were locals (the coronavirus pandemic has meant a sharp drop in tourists), and each was given a free mask featuring a Banksy print.
View scenes from the exhibition in Elabed’s video below.