Banksy is back, this time with a hotel. But of course with Banksy, not in a traditional sense. It's also a protest, museum, and gallery all combined. The Walled Off Hotel has a sign out front that's filled with mini circular lightbulbs aligning the inside of each letter, suggesting a pristine or flashy aesthetic. And it proudly boasts of its claim to fame (the worst view of any hotel in the world).
That statement is not a joke. Each room literally looks out at a concrete slab wall separating Israel from Palestinian territories. The hotel itself is a site officially in Area C of the West Bank, which means both Israelis and Palestinians are allowed to visit. However, Israelis have no "legal" way to actually reach Area C. Regardless, Banksy and his team hope "art-loving" Israelis will find a way to come see and discuss the installation. Banksy has confirmed the hotel is an entirely independent project set up and financed by himself with no affiliation to any political movement. All are welcome to visit and discover its "beauty" for themselves.
Banksy has an ongoing connection with the city of Bethlehem. He came to the area several times over a decade ago and created a series of artwork pieces on the Israeli-Palestine barrier wall. Subsequently, the artworks have become a tourist destination (or a favorite Instagram hotspot). The hope is The Walled Off Hotel will have similar appeal again, providing a needed increase in local jobs and tourism to the depressed area while spurring dialogue about what is up with the wall.
As background, the building is a former pottery workshop, but with a dystopian colonial theme - including a reception and tea-room a disconcerting take on a gentlemen’s club with a self-playing piano. The decor serves as a reference to Britain's role in the region's history, marked by a one hundred year anniversary (happening in 2017) of Britain taking control of Palestine and expressing support for a Jewish homeland in the country, aiding in starting this still-ongoing period of confusion and conflict.
All 10 rooms each have their own style, some more luxurious than others. For example, one feels like an army barracks while another is a presidential suite with its own mini-theater, study, bar, and jacuzzi. However, notably, they each only get 25 minutes of direct sunlight a day - a testimony to the "excellent" views of the Israeli West Bank barrier. And, of course, Banksy has original artworks in some of the rooms.
News was even unveiled that there will be concerts every night in the lobby at 9pm. The inaugural performance was given remotely by Elton John, who addressed the crowd before and while he played. Other artists who are slated to play will include Robert Del Naja aka 3D from Massive Attack, listed as an Artist In Residence, as well as Hans Zimmer, Flea, and Trent Razor.
Additional upcoming events include a Gallery Book Launch on March 26th, a Palestine Marathon on March 31st, and a Palestine Music Expo on April 4th to 7th.
Bookings will open to guests on March 11th and will be able to be reserved through the website.