Nestled against the barrier wall separating Israel from the Palestinian territories, controversial street artist Banksy has built a fully-functioning hotel, complete with a bar, museum and gallery of politically-charged artworks by the anonymous artist himself.
True to the British artist’s demeanour, The Walled Off Hotel – which was once an old pottery workshop – was developed completely under the radar over 14 months, and even building staff weren’t aware the project was on his behalf.
According to Banksy’s website, “it’s exactly one hundred years since Britain took control of Palestine and started re-arranging the furniture – with chaotic results… the aim [of the hotel] is to tell the story of the wall from every side and give visitors the opportunity to discover it for themselves.”
The hotel was styled with a strong colonial theme, reflecting Britain’s role in the region’s past, and the Piano Lounge is decorated with mounted CCTV cameras. There’s also statues choking on teargas, a painting of Jesus with a laser target on his forehead, and an exhibition dedicated to the 8 metre high wall, featuring art made by Palestinians and Israelis.
There are 4 types of rooms – the Artist, Scenic, Budget and Presidential – all of which have “the worst view of any hotel in the world”, looking onto the graffiti-strewed concrete wall and get just 25 minutes of direct sunlight a day. Prices start at $30 (£25) for the bunk-bed accommodation, and the Presidential suite is “equipped with everything a corrupt head of state would need.”
Banksy first came to Bethlehem more than a decade ago, leaving a series of paintings on the barrier that have become a tourist attraction in their own right. Since then, the region’s mostly tourism-fuelled economy has been destroyed by ever-tighter controls on travel between Israel and the Palestinian territories, so The Walled Off Hotel is expected to provide a welcome boost in visitor numbers and jobs, with the facility already employing 45 local staff members.
In a statement on his website, the artist assures people this isn’t a money-making scheme, saying he “paid for the installation costs and has now handed it over as an independent local business. The aim is to break even and put any profits back into local projects.”
To kick off the opening celebrations, Banksy enlisted music legend Elton John to play the hotel’s piano remotely, with a few lucky individuals watching the show in the Piano Bar. Every night at 9pm, the pre-programmed piano will play back a concert recorded exclusively for the hotel. Upcoming artists include Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Flea and Hans Zimmer.
From today, the piano bar, museum and art gallery are open to non-residents (the general public, people not staying in the hotel) every day from 11am – 7:30pm. The piano bar is open every day to non-residents, serving food and drink from 11am – 10pm.