At a time when political walls are only too real, seminal street artist Banksy has decorated a West Bank hotel overlooking the Israeli barrier. The ‘Walled Off Hotel’ was revealed on Banksy’s Instagram and stands in the shadow of the omnipresent wall that is considered illegal by most of the international community. Banksy, who is holding on to his secret real identity with paint-stained fingertips, has transformed the hotel into a dystopian treasure-trove of politically-charged artwork and installations.
— Ben de Pear (@bendepear) March 3, 2017
— George Shiber (@GeorgeShiber) March 3, 2017
It is one hundred years since the British government pledged allegiance to a Jewish homeland, effectively causing the creation of Israel, and the brutal, divisive conflict is still raging today. Banksy’s elaborate, art-filled venture draws our gaze onto this dispute and the decisive role Britain played as well as opening up the region as an unlikely tourist destination.
The beauty of the hotel is undeniable. Unique rooms are rich with original artwork, the Presidential Suite is a palatial marvel complete with tiki bar and faux-stone hot-tub while the Piano Bar is a gloomy parody of a colonial outpost. The hotel, ready to take bookings from March 11th, also boasts a home-made museum and separate art gallery. Other highlights include ‘an animated history of the region, military pornography and original beach sculpture from Gaza.’
— Diletante (@Rebeldiletante) March 3, 2017
The most exciting fact is that Banksy is being serious. It is a genuine, functioning boutique hotel that would cost an unscrupulous amount of money if it were in London or New York or, frankly, anywhere in the western world. It is an ingenious lure. Incredibly, Banksy has made the wall a tourist attraction, the proximity to conflict a means of helping and the unappealing appealing. But then again, what else were you expecting?
— Lana Maht (@LanaMaht) March 3, 2017
Banksy shot to fame illustrating the streets of Bristol with lighthearted parodies depicting the negative impact of commercialisation and other aspects of the modern world. He targeted and mocked the vast corporations that he felt best represented this: McDonalds and Disney. His work also showcased the perspective of the underdog (an under-rat was his animal of choice) and so his artwork became the voice of an unheard, overlooked generation who were politically minded yet powerless. It epitomised the political stirrings of this oppressed majority and their liberal views.
There is no surprise therefore that Banksy was drawn to regions in the world where this oppression was even stronger and particularly to areas of conflict. His art has always sought to highlight injustice. Segregation Wall in Palestine was bejewelled with a collection of in-situ paintings by the graffiti artist in 2005 which consisted of some of his most recognisable pieces.
With the conflict rumbling on in Bethlehem, it is clear why Banksy has returned. His latest installation draws our attention once more to this region and to the horrors that are inflicted on its citizens. By being light-hearted and playful, we are shown the sheer pointlessness of the issues at the root of this ongoing quarrel. It is merely a pillow-fight. The first Instagram upload in over 18 months by Banksy was a cryptic selection showing a streak of feathers tumbling through the air. The second picture revealed the full artwork and the message was clear: building walls breeds conflict. Whilst the flying feathers are painted, the casualties are real.
‘The Walled Off Hotel’, which consists of 10 uniquely painted bedrooms, boasts views of the Israeli barrier wall that separates Israel from the Palestinian Territories. Banksy’s venture is undoubtedly an invitation to the western world to come and observe (in stereotypical tourist style) the true impact of wall building. He just hopes the Trump administration are watching. And get it.