Artist booted from Banksy’s Dismaland over anti-Israel protest
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Artist booted from Banksy’s Dismaland over anti-Israel protest

Shadi Alzaqzouq says he was told to leave after covering his own exhibit with a sheet to demonstrate against inclusion of Israelis at sinister theme park

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A Banksy piece depicting an orca whale jumping out of a toilet is displayed at Banksy's biggest show to date, entitled 'Dismaland', during a press viewing in Western-super-Mare, Somerset, England, Thursday, August 20, 2015. (Yui Mok/PA Wire via AP)
A Banksy piece depicting an orca whale jumping out of a toilet is displayed at Banksy's biggest show to date, entitled 'Dismaland', during a press viewing in Western-super-Mare, Somerset, England, Thursday, August 20, 2015. (Yui Mok/PA Wire via AP)

A Palestinian-descended artist says he was removed from the Dismaland anti-theme park after covering his paintings to protest the inclusion of Israeli artists at the counter-culture site recently opened by graffitist Banksy.

Shadi Alzaqzouq, 34, claimed he was kicked out after covering his artwork with a bed-sheet on which he had scrawled “R.I.P Gaza: Boycott Israel,” and laying down in front of it.

However organizers decided to leave the sheet in place along with a note explaining that “the artist has decided to cover his work to protest being exhibited alongside artists from Israel. We are hoping to resolve the situation as soon as possible and apologise for any disappointment,” the Al-Araby al-Jadeed website reported on Tuesday.

Alzaqzouq said he started his protest at the beginning of the week after he discovered that Israeli artists were also taking part, something of which he was previously unaware.

Posted by Shadi Alzaqzouq on Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The “Dismaland” theme park is located in a derelict outdoor swimming pool center in Weston-super-Mare, a coastal town near Bristol in the west of England.

It features installations such as a burned-out version of the famous Disneyland castle, with a dead Cinderella hanging out of her crashed pumpkin carriage surrounded by paparazzi, a riot van built to patrol the streets of Northern Ireland, and a game where visitors can steer miniature boats full of asylum seekers around a pond, among other sinister attractions.

The park also features works from 58 artists, including the elusive Banksy. The artist hand-picked all of them, including three artists each from Israel and the Palestinian territories, one Egyptian artist, two Syrians and an Iranian.

“I found out when arrived at the show that three Israeli artists were taking part, one of whom served in the IDF,” Alzaqzouq told the London-based website. “I got upset that I hadn’t been informed and tried to complain to the organizers.”

When no one came to listen to his gripe, Alzaqzouq decided to take matter into his own hands.

“I decided I had to protest in some way so I went and got a bed sheet from my hotel room and wrote ‘R.I.P Gaza: Boycott Israel’ on it in coal and hung it over my artwork and laid down like a corpse in front of my two paintings on display,” said Alzaqzouq, who was born in Libya to Palestinian parents and lives in France.

Half an hour later security guards arrived on the scene and asked him what was going on before contacting Holly Cushing, often described as manager or gatekeeper for the elusive Banksy.

A feature poster of Dismaland. (Dismaland.co.uk)
A feature poster of Dismaland. (Dismaland.co.uk)

Alzaqzouq said after listening to his explanation, Cushing told him the protest work was too “ugly” for the site and then claimed that an American art collector was going to buy his art.

According to the report, after making a phone call to Banksy, Cushing ordered Alzaqzouq to leave and said his paintings were to be removed.

However, the artwork and the protest sheet remained in place.

Dismaland and Cushing could not be immediately reached for comment. According to the website for the dark and depressing “bemusement park,” the only things that are banned are “spray paint, marker pens, knives and legal representatives of the Walt Disney Corporation.”

Alzaqzouq had two paintings on display.

“After Washing #3” shows a woman hold up a pair of men’s underwear with the Arabic word for “leave” written on the front — the word chanted by anti-dictator protesters during Arab Spring protests.

The second piece, “Rock Me All Night Long,” depicts children throwing colored rocks and shoes with ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in the background depicted as the Joker character from Batman.

Banksy, who keeps his face and identity a secret and made his name with subversive graffiti, has visited Israel and the Palestinian territories on a number of occasions, including after the recent war, when he left some works on the ruins of homes there.

AFP contributed to this report.

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