First he debuted Dismaland, a deliberately depressing theme park. Now Banksy is opening a hotel with views of graffiti-strewn concrete from every room. According to its owner, it has the worst view of any hotel in the world. But Banksy has transformed it into a political statement that will have travelers and art aficionados clamoring to visit.
The Walled Off Hotel is a three-story immersive piece of art and also a fully functioning hotel. Situated just five meters inside the huge security wall that separates Israel from the Palestinian territories, it enjoys direct sunlight for just 25 minutes a day.
The hotel sits in the middle of the most heavily painted stretch of the barrier, an area which Banksy has previously decorated extensively. Ironically, the only amenity on the block not operated by the artist is the “Banksy shop” next door.
Banksy converted the former pottery workshop that lies under the shadow of an army watchtower into a “hotel, tea shop, home-made museum with en-suite art gallery and graffiti supplies store.” In other words, the Walled Off Hotel is “an all-inclusive vandals resort.” Banksy has decorated many of the bedrooms and hallways with his trademark stencils in what constitutes his largest new body of work in years. He’s even designed some of the menu items.
Guest rooms vary from the luxurious Presidential suite equipped with hot tub and roof garden, to the budget option—a room full of bunk beds salvaged from an army barracks. Other guest quarters will be decorated by visiting artists, which so far include Sami Musa from Ramallah, a Palestinian city in the West Bank, and French-Canadian Dominique Petrin.
Banksy makes a statement
To acknowledge Britain’s historic role in the region, the hotel is decorated to resemble an English gentleman’s club from colonial times. High tea is served in fine china to the music of a baby grand piano. However, the refined ambience has been brought up-to-date with modern times—the oil-painted seascapes are awash with refugee’s life jackets, statues choke on tear-gas fumes and cherubs fall to earth starved of breath.
In a statement, Banksy explained: “It’s exactly one hundred years since Britain took control of Palestine and started rearranging the furniture—with chaotic results. I don’t know why, but it felt like a good time to reflect on what happens when the United Kingdom makes a huge political decision without fully comprehending the consequences.”
Banksy claims the adjoining museum is “the world’s only visitor attraction dedicated to the biography of a single concrete structure.” It is aimed at explaining the wall to the many coach parties of tourists who rush through it every day on their way to Bethlehem’s holy sites. The museum contains state-of-the-art audio visual presentations and was produced in association with Dr. Gavin Grindon of Essex University.
Situated on the first floor is a brand new art gallery exclusively dedicated to work made in the region. Its curator Ismal Duddera says it marks a significant milestone that will “open an entirely new chapter of Arab art in general and Palestinian art in particular.”
The hotel is an open-hearted community resource that offers a warm welcome to people from all sides of the conflict and around the world. It has been created and financed by Banksy and is not allied with any political party or pressure group. Situated in Area C, a section of the West Bank that is managed by Israel, it is open to Israelis, unlike many parts of the West Bank.
The Walled Off Hotel offers easy access to Jerusalem, the Church of the Nativity and the Dead Sea. It is safe, secure and open to international visitors without a visa. The hotel is open to non-residents every day beginning Mar. 11, from 11am – 10pm. Large groups must make an appointment before visiting. Bookings will be taken via the hotel website from Mar. 11 and the hotel opens to overnight guests from Mar. 20.
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