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The Walled Off Hotel by Banksy

By: Ellie Williams
The Walled Off Hotel by Banksy

by Modern Spaceman

4 months ago

Banksy, the British artist known for his graffiti work, transformed the West Bank barrier site in Bethlehem into an inspiring and somewhat disturbing political museum/hotel, The Walled Off Hotel. Known for ironic humor and commercialism, the artist hopes to bring tourists, jobs and political attention to this area, while also creating an adequate gallery for Palestinian art.

The barrier wall, built 15 years ago as a security measure against the first Palestinian uprising, tightens Israel’s reigns on Palestinian entities West Bank and Gaza Strip. Capitalizing on the graffiti, comparable to the artwork in Berlin’s East Side Gallery, Banksy brings the experience of the barrier to a personal level. He supports the movement of “oppression tourism”, where the guests may pay $20 to spray paint their unique political message on the colorful concrete. The West Bank barrier is visible from most parts of the hotel, which is known to have “the worst view in the world”.

The whimsical hotel presents an interesting dichotomy, focusing on such a somber and often taboo topic. The peculiar lodging offers nine rooms, which are booked full through 2018. Rooming options range from military barrack-like bunks ($30/night) to the Presidential Suite ($965/night), all custom designed by Banksy himself. The unsubtle art in the rooms and the public spaces such as the gallery, piano bar, and spray paint shop, are meant to create a sense of discomfort and to provoke thought to inspire discourse on the age-old, nuanced conflict. Banksy achieves this aura by following a commercial and exaggerated decoration theme combined with the luxurious amenities of a standard hotel.

Located in a legal gray zone, this hotel is open to all but is inaccessible to those banned from the area, the Palestinians. The Walled Off Hotel stands as a symbol of anti-Israeli activism, creating a strong contrast between the lux of the hotel and the surrounding barren landscape. With around 700 visitors per day, all profits are returned to the Bethlehem community.

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