Banksy's Mediterranean Sea View

Year: 2017
Medium: Oil
Dimensions: 85 x 115cm
Last Hammer: £1,850,000 (Sotheby's London, 2023)
Signed/Unsigned: Signed
Mediterranean Sea View is a triptych consisting of three found oil paintings that were reworked by Banksy in 2017. Filled with translucent breaking waves, the turbulent seascapes feature in three of the canvases, recalling the Romantic era imagery. Banksy interrupts the original scenery by imposing hand-painted life jackets and buoys on the canvases.Mediterranean Sea View © Banksy 2017
Joe Syer

Joe Syer, Co-Founder & Specialist[email protected]

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Mediterranean Sea View is a triptych that masterfully juxtaposes the serene aesthetics of Romantic-era seascapes against the unsettling realities of the contemporary refugee crisis. Signed by the artist, each oil painting carries a profound message, communicated through the unexpected intrusion of life jackets and buoys amidst traditionally peaceful landscape imagery. This visual dissonance transforms the artworks into a powerful commentary on the perilous journeys many undertake across the Mediterranean, seeking refuge from conflict and despair. It emerges as a remarkable fusion of beauty and tragedy, marrying the grandeur of Romantic seascapes with a narrative deeply rooted in today’s socio-political adversities.

Mediterranean Sea View: Meaning & Analysis

Artistic Tradition in Mediterranean Sea View

The series pays homage to the aesthetic legacies of luminaries like J.M.W. Turner and Ivan Aivazovsky, yet it is unequivocally modern in the delivery of its message. The serene waters of these paintings are disturbed by the presence of life jackets and buoys, symbols of the human lives lost and the ongoing struggles of refugees. The narrative unfolds across the three canvases: the left piece encapsulates the foreboding aura of a looming storm, symbolising the chaos and uncertainty that force individuals to flee their homelands. In contrast, the central and right canvases, with their dawn-lit skies, might at first suggest hope or a new beginning. However, the sight of life jackets adrift in the sea complicates this interpretation, serving as a haunting reminder of those who did not survive their journey to safety. The triptych not only carries a political charge but also prompts a reevaluation of the Mediterranean's role in the collective artistic imagination. Once celebrated as a muse for artists and a symbol of idyllic beauty, it is now tragically recognised as a mass grave for the nameless victims of migration.

These artworks echo Banksy’s earlier Vandalised Oils series, where he similarly repurposed found paintings to make bold political statements. Originally intended to capture the sublime beauty of nature, these canvases are now laden with a deeper, more poignant and contemporary message. Mediterranean Sea View confronts its viewers with a jarring blend of art and tragedy, demanding a reflection on the ongoing refugee crisis rather than offering an escape into aesthetic appreciation. It is a testament to Banksy's unparalleled ability to weave together artistry and activism. By reimagining found oil paintings, the artist invites us to reconsider our perceptions of history, art and their interplay with the pressing issues of our time. The triptych stands as a significant work in Banksy’s oeuvre, capturing the turbulence of our era while maintaining the intrinsic allure of the seascape genre. It serves as a reminder of art's potential to reflect beauty and illuminate the darkest aspects of our world, urging us towards empathy, awareness and action.

Mediterranean Sea View marries the serenity of Romantic-era seascapes with the harsh realities of the contemporary refugee crisis. This work exemplifies how art can serve as a powerful medium for social critique, urging a reflection on the profound impacts of global conflicts on human lives.”

Joe Syer
Joe Syer,Co-Founder & Specialist,MYArtbroker

Banksy and the Refugee Crisis

Throughout his oeuvre, Banksy consistently highlights the absurdities and tragedies of modern life, challenging viewers to confront uncomfortable truths. His work is often a commentary on social and political issues, encouraging public discourse and action. In the case of Mediterranean Sea View, the artwork becomes a platform to engage with the refugee crisis, serving as a haunting reminder of those who face unimaginable risks in search of safety and a better life. Banksy's work challenges us to engage with the harsh realities faced by refugees, using the medium of art to spark dialogue and provoke thought about migration, perilous journeys and the very human stories behind them. Considering that Mediterranean Sea View was originally located in the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, the triptych takes on an even deeper meaning.

The hotel itself is a statement, famously known to offer the 'worst view in the world' — a direct view of the grim concrete structure of the Israeli West Bank Barrier. This hotel, which opened in March 2017 and is laden and financed with Banksy's works, stands as a powerful installation, combining art, politics, and tourism and becoming a symbol of the region's political struggles and the human costs associated with them. The establishment serves to highlight the area's intense political situation and Banksy's focus on social justice, offering guests not just accommodation but an educational and emotional journey into the region's historical and current challenges. This hotel, with its colonial outpost-themed piano bar and art-enriched environment, is a significant artistic and political statement in itself, reflecting Banksy's long standing engagement with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In 2020, Banksy funded a maritime endeavour to aid refugees striving to escape North Africa for Europe. The rescue vessel, named Louise Michel after an influential French feminist anarchist, is adorned with distinctive Banksy artwork and sailing under the German flag. The bright pink yacht, which is faster than other NGO ships, was a beacon of hope in the Mediterranean. It aims to “combine sea rescue with the principles of queer-feminism, anti-racism and anti-fascism.” Banksy's engagement began with an unsolicited email to Pia Klemp, a seasoned captain known for her rescue efforts, offering financial support for a new vessel. While Banksy provided the funds, he left the operational control to the experienced activists, focusing on what he does best – using his art to bring awareness, challenge the status quo and support a cause that seeks to bring tangible aid to the ongoing migrant crisis.

Mediterranean Sea View Value: Exhibition History

Painted for and displayed in the lobby of the Walled Off Hotel.

Donated to ABCD Bethlehem.

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