Banksy's Surreal West Bank Art Hotel
The Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem makes its surprise debut, with a mission.
Banksy is getting into the hotel business. Today, the world got its first glimpse of the latest from the British street art great: the so-called Walled Off Hotel (giddit?), a fully functional art hotel in Bethlehem, on the West Bank in Palestine, in the shadow of Israel’s West Bank Separation Wall.
The hotel will employ 45 people, highlight Palestinian artists, and features a variety of artistic decor by Banksy. “Dormitory-style” accommodations, modeled after military barracks, will set you back somewhere in the region of $30 to $35, though there are luxury suites that apparently cost much more.
True to Banksy’s guerrilla-art roots, the Walled Off Hotel comes as a surprise. “The hotel was built in complete secrecy over a 14-month period, surprising even Palestinian officials when its doors suddenly flew open on Friday,” the Telegraph reports.
The project’s website also lists some impressive musical acts as being on tap to support the initiative. Saturday’s opening party—which is advertised as “invite and locals only”—claims to feature a concert by Sir Elton John and Palestinian pianist Ramzi Shomali.
On March 13, the hotel advertises a street party with Fatboy Slim, who previously did a “surprise” gig at Banksy’s Dismaland project.
The hotel also boasts player piano tunes from a variety of pop stars, including, currently, Massive Attack frontman 3D (sure to fuel conspiracy theories that 3D is actually the secret identity of Banksy).
Banksy is known as a prankster, so take all these claims with a grain of salt. Reporting from the preview, the news website Al-Monitor said that a spokeswoman for the Walled Off Hotel said that John would play a “live show,” but added that she “would not clarify if he would be present or perform via videolink.”
Each of the rooms in the Walled Off Hotel is decorated by the artist, with one mural showing a pillow fight between a soldier and protester above a very luxurious looking bed. The decor features the classic, sarcastic Banksy touches. The hotel has a colonial theme and will serve a traditional English high tea. A statue of a monkey bellhop welcomes visitors at the main entrance.
Views allow guests to inspect the West Bank wall, which Banksy famously tagged, more a decade ago. Guests are invited to graffiti the wall during their stay.
Bethlehem relies economically on tourism and pilgrimages, which has been hampered by the restrictions. However, Banksy and others behind the project hope that the hotel—which is situated outside the restricted part of the city—will create jobs and attract people to the area.
The hope is that by showing Palestinian artists, the Walled Off Hotel will give them the rare opportunity to exhibit, sell work, and travel.
In addition to his celebrated 2005 mural on the Separation Wall, in 2014 Banksy traveled to Gaza and created works there, releasing a mock travel video of the trip. His last big project, Dismaland, saw the artist create a misanthropic theme park in the English seaside town of Weston-super-mare. After being dismantled, that project was moved to create housing in the refugee camp the Jungle in Calais, France.
The Walled Off Hotel will take bookings from March 11.