10 years after his first initiative in Bethlehem, elusive British artist Banksy has returned to unveiled his latest project: The Walled Off Hotel , with 10 rooms nestled against the controversial barrier wall separating Israel from the Palestinian territories.
Located in the historic city, the hotel with its nine rooms for £30 a night and one presidential suite, will be open for bookings on its website later this month. It’s a real business adventure, aiming to bring jobs and tourists to a town whose pilgrim and sightseeing-based economy has been ravaged by ever tighter Israeli controls on travel between Israeli and Palestinian territories.
There have been few reasons for Israelis to visit Bethlehem in recent years, because they are banned by law from visiting the town and all its main tourist sites.
It contains dozens of Banksy works, a themed bar and interactive exhibits. One depicts the signing of the Balfour Declaration which set the conditions for the establishment of Israel 100 years ago this year.
The hotel has been “decorated to resemble an English gentlemen’s club from colonial times” in recognition of the historical role Britain played in the region.
Banksy says people from all sides of the Middle East conflict are welcome to stay, and he is not affiliated to any political party or pressure group.
From the 11th March the museum and art gallery will be open to non-residents every day. Guests can peruse a collection of Banksy artworks that include vandalised oil paintings and statues choking on tear gas fumes. The gallery space enjoys complete autonomy from the rest of the hotel and is curated by the venerated historian and critic Ismal Duddera. He has assembled a permanent collection of real heft and significance. Many of the most notable Palestinian artists from the past 20 years are here – including Sliman Mansour with his iconic “And the Convoy Keeps Going”. An adjoining space is dedicated to temporary shows by upcoming artists.
The museum is dedicated solely to the biography of the wall. It contains state-of-the-art audio visual presentations and a very old tree. Other highlights includes an animated history of the region, military pornography and original beach sculpture from Gaza. The cinema plays excerpts from the mighty Oscar nominated ‘Five Broken Cameras’ – and one of those very same bullet-damaged cameras is on display.
Curated in association with Dr Gavin Grindon from Essex University the museum contains almost fully fact-checked material and will be an ongoing repository for local stories, artefacts and testimonies.
The Hotel also features a graffiti supplies store called ‘Wall – Mart’ that will launch on 20th March, providing supplies for clients who want to paint the Wall nearby.
Photo credit: The Guardian / The Walled Off Hotel
The Walled Off Hotel
182 Caritas Street, Bethlehem, Palestine