Banksy Opens Hotel With The World’s Worst View in Bethlehem
Ever wished to spend the night in a hotel filled with Banksy’s art? Well, very soon you can! Famous for his elusive enigmatic persona, political street art pieces and his own theme park called “Dismaland”, the British street artist just opened The Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem. As the biblical birthplace of Jesus, the city is a major Christian pilgrimage destination. But now street art enthusiasts have a solid reason for going on a pilgrimage of their own!
The new Palestinian hotel is a play on the luxurious Waldorf Astoria, but is sarcastically called “the hotel with the worst view in the world”. Why? It is located in the occupied West Bank, in the heart of the city and straight across the street of the tall wall that seperates Palestina from Israel. In other words, that wall is all you see when looking out the window. Just like the locals do every day. Several of the nine rooms even look out on an Israeli security watchtower. The 'West Bank separation barrier' was erected back in 2000 by Israel to ward off potential Palestinian attackers. Nowadays the huge wall is illegally embellished with mostly political murals and tags, including work by Banksy himself. “Walls are hot right now, but I was into them long before Trump made it cool,” the artist joked.
In a recent statement Banksy explained that he felt it was a good time to reflect on what happened a hundred years ago, when the United Kingdom took control of Palestine and started “re-arranging the furniture with chaotic results”. He criticized his own country for having made such a huge political decision without fully comprehending the consequences. With this newest project the artist also wants to highlight the ever-problematic relationship between Palestine and Israel, while showcasing work by several talented Palestinian artists. Of course the hotel is also packed with art by Banksy himself.
There is eye for detail when it comes to the interior design of the hotel. Somehow it seems like time is standing still and has been doing so for a century. According to some visitors the hotel already had since its opening, this is the most bizarre hotel they have ever visited. An unsettling sphere is created by zooming in on and intensifying certain aspects of daily life in and around Bethlehem. Such as the inescapable presence of the West Bank barrier that quite literally overshadows the guests' experience. At the same time, the artists' works all fit together like pieces of a big puzzle and can be experienced as a sort of big performance that pulls us into the daily reality and struggles of the locals.
However, The Walled Off Hotel is a real business venture, not just an art stunt. The manager, Wisam Salsaa, is hoping that Isreali civilians from across the wall will come visit to learn more about Palestinian people and will engage in a fruitful dialogue. This way, they hope to be able to break down stereotypes together and foster positive changes in the problematic region.
Each of the rooms is decorated differently and offers a range of budgets and options for any type of traveller. You will find the cheapest 'budget' rooms that look like army barracks, as well as 'scenic' rooms that have the 'worst view' of the West Bank wall. But if you’re willing to pay more, you can spend the night in one of the presidential suites that feature work by Banksy and the other artists. So far Banksy, Palestinian artist Sami Musa and Canadian artist Dominique Petrin have all customized rooms, and more contributors will follow!