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the walled off hotel website image

The Walled Off Hotel

“For a long time, I thought it was a scam until I got some cash in to the bank” those were the exact words of Montreal artist Dominique Petrin when she was asked about the call from British street artist Bansky in regards to the project codenamed; The Walled Off Hotel.

Dominique Petrin and Bansky were the sole master minds behind The Walled Off Hotel, which is located at the West Bank city of Bethlehem. It sits just beside an Israeli wall which was built to prevent Palestinians from invading the country. Petrin did her best preparations as she was handpicked by Bansky himself, asked about this she based it on a one liner statement “British colony on the verge of collapsing”.

view of the interior of scenic room inside of the walled off hotel

The three storied all-inclusive hotel boasts of a ceiling to floor graffiti-strewn concrete from almost each and every room. It hosts a low lit restaurant and bar which is highly decorated as a British colonial clubhouse, but some of the artists’ works are ironic covering the walls and were unveiled just about a few weeks ago but have only opened recently to overnight stays. Bansky who is well known for his politically motivated artwork converted a former pottery workshop to an all-inclusive resort, which also includes an art gallery, a tea shop and a graffiti supplies store.

view of mural featuring ironic depiction of two men pillow fighting painted by banksy inside of the walled off hotel

Bansky did most of the artwork, from the angels on life support hanging just above the piano to the masked Palestinian pillow fighting with the Israeli soldier just above one of the beds. Every room has its own uniqueness, one room has been painted solely to like a concrete wall is surrounding the whole room, and somehow it still manages to feel and look comfortable.

Another room feels and looks like an army barrack, furnished with foot lockers and bunker beds. An art gallery which is situated on the first floor will show art works made in this region exclusively, its curator Ismail Duddera saying “it will open an entirely new chapter of Arab art in general and Palestinian art in particular”.

On August 2015, Bansky – whose identity remains a mystery, launched his Dismaland attraction at a derelict lido in Somerset, which was designed as a cynical take on Disneyland entertainment resorts attracting 150,000 people within duration of five-weeks. After the closing of Dismaland “Bemusement Park”, he sent fixtures and wood from the park dismantled castle to the jungle refugee camp, he thus added a painting of Steve Job’s signature look of a black polo neck clutching an earlier Apple computer on his left hand while slinging a sack over his shoulders with his right hand.

Bansky decorated most of the corridors and bedrooms within the hotel, using a range of his signature stencils. A couple of the guest quarters will be decorated by guest artists Sami Musa from Ramallah and French-Canadian Dominique Petrin.

view of the timeline displayed in the museum inside of the walled off hotel

Instead of a gym, the walled off hotel chose to incorporate a museum which is dedicated to enlightening guests and visitors on the separation barrier providing a much deeper context on the topic, while being thoroughly careful not to choose a side between the Israelis and Palestinian conflict which surrounds the hotel.

model depiction of construction vehicles during the creation of the wall as seen inside of the walled off hotel

Banksy’s work largely being politically affiliated, from a chain of stencils on Israelis separation wall, which violates international laws by stretching into the occupied West Bank, to a life-sized sculpture of an inmate from Guantanamo Bay. A few images have become largely controversial and emblematic critiques of the Israeli state policies. Other works are also mischievously politically motivated like a bullet-ridden tank that shoots water into a hot tub, a bust with a piece of clothing, made from cotton tightly covering the mouth, while tear gas cloaks it.

the 'wall mart' store inside of the walled off hotel that sells art supplies for painting on the west bank barrier

At the entrance of the museum sits a figure of former British Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur Balfour, whose hand moves mechanically in repeated circles indicating the signing of the Balfour declaration of 1917, expressing the UK’s support in establishing a home for the Jewish people. The exact timing of this installation is somehow politically significant; as it has been exactly a century since the British took a hold of the Palestine and power shifted drastically. Balfour is still the most controversial figure in the conflict, detested by Palestinians, thanked by Israelis

Not everyone is taken with the hotel and its route is full of controversies and has a dramatic impact on the everyday lives of a lot of people. One thing everyone agrees on is that everything here is under dispute. The art project was meant to promote and encourage talks about peace between the Israeli and Palestinians, all this while functioning as a normal hotel.

Banksy’s work may bring about positive effect around the community, his work not only sheds spotlights on places but also makes statements on important and critical issues happening around there. The Walled Off Hotel is a masterpiece and a reminder to everyone staying inside it of what exactly the Palestinians are experiencing.

sucklord

Artist Profile: The Sucklord

Of the many types of artists that roam the streets of New York, there is one that stands separate from the rest. His name is The Sucklord and he has built a mini-empire based on his strange, unique vision of what an action figure can be, and where strange art fits into the art scene.

The Sucklord was born in the West Village, New York City in 1969, the perfect time to see the rise of the action figure in popular culture. When he was eight years old, Star Wars was released in theatres and, along with the film’s box office, a flood of toys entered the marketplace. The Sucklord, then more commonly known as Morgan Phillips, became a lifelong fan of the franchise and was inspired to create his own line of action figures. “I’ve been inclined to make toys my entire life, since I was a kid, since the first Star Wars figures came out,” he said in an interview with The Atlantic. “It became sort of hard-wired into the way I experience the world.”

worlds-most-famous-couple

The Sucklord’s work is perhaps best described as remixing. He will often take discarded and abandoned materials and rework them into something new, something unique. He calls the result “bootleg action figures,” a term he coined when he first started producing his unique figures in earnest in 2005. “Bootleg figures are a lot like sampling in the world of hip-hop, where you take little bits and pieces of different songs, different figures, and recombine them into something new,” he explains. “Hopefully there’s something transformational going on.”

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The Sucklord’s work has a hard time being placed in the modern art world but has slowly been gaining notoriety in unconventional places. The Sucklord himself admits that he has a hard time “know[ing] where this stuff belongs.” It’s too “low-brow” for the modern art gallery, with its preconceptions and precarious pretensions, but his figures are a bit too esoteric and adult to find themselves in traditional toy stores. The Sucklord, however, has found two avenues that are bringing his work to the masses: the internet and reality television.

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You can find much of The Sucklord’s work on his site, Suckdelic, where he sells his work, blogs, and profiles many other artistic endeavours. He has also made several appearances on reality TV shows, including Gallery Girls. The show’s stars, who own a store in New York called End of Century, stocked his wares and profiled him on the show. He has also appeared on a number f other shows, all of which feature his eclectic work.

One of the things that make The Sucklord’s work so interesting is its placement. Rather than avoiding commercialism, like how Banksy tries to sidestep capitalism and art, The Sucklord has embraced a modern approach, one that circumvents the normal, established avenues in favour of something more suited to his particular work. By making his own path, he can control his art’s distribution without compromising his vision.

image of blu mural in berlin after being painted over

Banksy’s Stolen Art

Banksy’s work has caused another controversy, but this time it isn’t about his work, it’s about where it went. A Banksy piece was found on the side of a building in North London, where it was stolen by unknown parties after being there for less than a year. Soon after, an American art dealer announced that the piece was going to be up for sale, with an estimated price of nearly one million dollars.

image showcasing stolen banksy street art

The piece was verified and became a well-known fixture in the community, and the piece itself was reportedly removed without the permission of the building owner. Some locals have called the act theft and demanded the piece be given back since it is stolen property.

In response, Bologna street artist Blu started painting over his pieces in his hometown. Done leading up to a show he was having, he said the decision to destroy his own work was made in part because of the story in London.

It’s important to note that Banksy is, as always, an exceptional example in the world of graffiti and public art. He is both unknown and the most popular graffiti artist in the world, which means he cannot have a significant say in what happens to his work once it is on public property. If Banksy was, say, Shepard Fairey, then he could issue a statement or participate in the conversation in a more significant way.

On the other hand, Banksy’s work has changed the lives of people throughout the world in a financial capacity. A few years ago, a single mom in England woke up to a Banksy on her home’s side wall. The wall section was removed and the art sold at auction, to which she received most of the profits. But here, the property case is more complicated, especially since no one has reported the theft as a crime.

Graffiti is almost founded on the idea of property and this incident questions both who owns the piece and what ownership the artists have over it once it’s completed. For Banksy, his identity makes his work a target while limiting his ability to contribute to the conversation. Blu’s protest suggests that the artist can “take back” their work at any time with a roller and some unsightly paint. And seeing as Banksy’s mural was indeed stolen and then sold elsewhere in the world, it becomes a question of who owns the piece once it’s finished. Is it the building owners, the artist, or whoever can rip it off the wall the fastest?

Depending on who you ask, you will get a different opinion, and that will certainly change from nation to nation. In London, no crimes were reported during the incident and the thieves were never discovered. Some may wonder if the piece was, in fact, not stolen, but removed for a fee and sold later. Whatever the reasoning and end result, though, Banksy’s work continues to challenge in more ways than one.

banksy secret artwork sale

Banksy’s Art Sale

Andy Warhol accomplished many things in his lifetime. He brought pop sensibilities to high art in a way unseen before his arrival. He made movies that made people go to the art gallery. He even cultivated the career of one Lou Reed, one of New York’s most beloved musicians. But one thing that Warhol did, intentionally or not, was change what people consider art, and how much they’re willing to pay for it. Consider it: Warhol made an entire series of paintings which are essentially copies of Campbell’s soup cans, one of the most common items in the entire world. These paintings have sold for millions of dollars. They have become iconic pieces and owning one would be like owning a piece of American history.

In 2013, Banksy seemed to accomplish the exact opposite: taking something worth millions and selling it for pennies. A humble art shop was set up in New York’s Central Park when Banksy was doing a high profile yet very secretive tour of the city. It was full of Banksy originals and prints, all for sixty dollars. There were three signs: one said “Spray Art,” another the price, and a third simply stating “This is not a photo opportunity.” Run by an older man in sunglasses and a hat, the store was only open for a single day and sold a total of eight pieces for a grand total of $420. Half of the sales came from a man from Chicago who “just needed something for the walls” of his new apartment. One lady bought two pieces for her grandchildren, managing to haggle a 50% discount from the shopkeeper.

Banksy’s work has always, in some way or another, a commentary on the economic systems surrounding art. He became famous for his stencils, freely given, on the streets of England and, later when he decided to have his Central Park art sale, New York. His Dismaland attraction charged an entry fee, but it was nominal and the uninterested guards probably wouldn’t have stopped you. But the way his work becomes part of economics is interesting as well: a single mom who awoke to discover Banksy had painted a piece on the side of her house ended up selling the section of wall for five figures, helping her climb out of debt and start anew. And even his Central Park art show would be a chance for someone to make an insane profit: sixty dollar pieces that are easily worth thousands.

Banksy has never been shy about discussing economics and art, whether it’s in his street art pieces or efforts like “Exit Through Gift Shop” or this pop-up shop in Central Park. His approach says something about the importance of access when it comes to art and artistic expression. While much of today’s art sits in galleries, exclusive events, and parties for the social elite, Banksy and other street artists continue to make efforts to provide art for everyone. All it takes is a stroll outside.

dismaland by banksy

Banksy’s Dismaland

Appearing suddenly in the cold, blank canvas of an English seaside resort town, Dismaland Bemusement Park caught international headlines when it opened its doors. A pop-up art exhibition by international superstar Banksy, the installation was heralded for the usual political targets: corporate greed, unsubstantial cookie-cutter entertainments, and a blind consumerism. The piece was open for a few days this year, attracting international guests like Run the Jewels (who participated by performing at the venue), Jack Black, and others.

When you walk through the doors, past the “optional” security team, you are immediately greeted with a complete sarcasm. A statue of an Orca jumping out of a toilet and into a splash pool, a rusty version of the Disney castle, angry and even gruff staff who’s enjoyment is squashed by instructions to perpetuate an ironic dissonance.

What was once a series of clever political stencils has since broadened into an almost underground media empire. Today, Banksy is just as famous for his theme parks, videos, and surprise sales in Central Park as he (or she, or s/he, or even they for that matter), as the graffiti that pops up around the world. And as the world’s most widely-known and popular street artist continues his extremely prolific, and extremely profitable, artistic career, we are forced to ask questions of the art, the artist, and the overall aesthetics.

After all, Dismaland is an obvious, sarcastic, and genuinely juvenile attack on the media empire that is Disney (also famous for theme parks, videos, and art). It plays on common targets in today’s world: media saturation, security theatre, even the treatment of low-level employees and the almost necessary dehumanization of contemporary economics. But it’s all performed with the tongue firmly in the cheek, an eye-roll that picks on people more than it picks on companies. And there is a certain irony of the entire spectacle. Dan Brooks probably put it best in his New York Times critique:

“When you see bad expression praised as good — when your Facebook friends share a sarcastic news report, or a millionaire street artist puts mouse ears on an actress and tells her to frown, you must also feel some injustice has been done. Kitsch should not get away with exploiting people’s desire to feel the art. How wonderful it must feel to go to ‘Dismaland’ and see through society! But how awful to see society embrace art that makes you feel nothing, that makes you think only about the vast chasm between you and everyone else.”

If the purpose of art, which itself is a dubious prospect and idea, is to evoke a feeling or moment of realization (a sort of epiphany), then Dismaland must be an intentional fail. After all, nothing presented appears to make a comment beyond “this sucks” and “that also sucks.” The targets seem to be families who save up thousands to enjoy a family vacation, people with fond memories of childhood entertainment. But here, those people are constructed as straw men consumers, as if the estimated £20m boost to the local economy was somehow apart from such a process.

Indeed, if Dismaland is a sound comment on anything, it is Banksy himself. In an effort to appear political, his broad strokes here, so apart from the precise incisions found in his street art, is a disregard of humanity to make a point everyone already knows, but with an teenage disregard that supposed to be legitimizing.

social media sites in artform

Street Art And Social Media: Similar But Different?

In a world where street art gets painted over and washed away as quick as it’s drawn, many street artists are turning to social media to archive their projects and, at the same time, increase their exposure. We all know social media sites like Facebook and Instagram are permanently marking our lives, turning every picture and event into a searchable database. It can be fun to see pictures from years ago and see how we’ve changed, but it can also be a great way to get people excited about different art projects, and especially street art.

Artists like Jay Shells have been using social media to preserve their art after it’s been washed away, but is social media just a tool for street artists, or are they already social media mavericks?

When you look many street artists’ work, it purposefully injects viewers into the project. It’s designed to turn heads, make people talk, and convey a message. The same can be said about art in galleries or installed in people’s homes, however, so what makes street art a more social form of art and media?

Some argue it’s street art’s baseline interactivity and use of public space, it’s very origins as vandalism as a means to encourage participation and interactivity. At it’s most basic form, street art is paint on a surface in a public forum, be it a building wall, billboard, public transit vehicle, or other similar medium. It’s left out for others to see and uses the space on which it’s used as a part of it’s picture and message. Take Zevs’ controversial Visual Attack series for example. Each piece uses existing advertisements to change the message on billboards by adding paint to the project. It interacts and encourages participation. In that way, street art can become social media.

And the level needed to participate is arguably lower than that of traditional social media. For example, Instagram requires some of the following: a smartphone with a camera, internet access, and a membership to the app. An original Banksy painted on the side of a house in Bristol requires walking down the street in Bristol. Theoretically, if you already live in Bristol, the threshold for becoming part of the Banksy audience and community is much lower, not barring people based on their ability to access technology and internet, but their ability to walk down a street.

Street art breaks the boundary between vandalism and art to comment on many different aspects of our everyday lives, but billboards in particular. Billboards are a particular form of street art that has special protections for one simple reason: it has been paid for. They are unique only in their protection while street art is continually washed away and scrubbed from our streets at a great cost to the city. Naturally, the boundary between lewd graffiti, street art, and billboards is porous but always discussed, but only one of these is legally allowed to stay up. Street artists use these spaces to their advantage and, by doing so, challenge why special provisions are given to corporate street art over other forms of public art.

banksy eavesdropping mural

Banksy Admits to Eavesdropping Mural

He’s struck again. After a few months in New York, selling his wares anonymously (and for almost no money) in Central Park and painting anywhere he wanted, Banksy has left the Big Apple and headed home.

Known for his political graffiti, Banksy’s latest mural targets the British government’s increasingly invasive strategies for information. “Eavesdropping,” as the mural has been called, confronts this directly, with jacketed figures all standing around a phone booth with various devices for listening in. I guess some people will think twice before using that pay-phone for any illicit calls.

Banksy admitted to the painting in a Q&A on his website. The artist is notoriously guarded about his identity, despite a large number of people knowing who he is and refusing to tell, and will communicate with people only through email. This time, someone asked him directly: “Did you paint the spies in Cheltenham?” Banksy’s replay was a simple “Yes.”

In the same Q&A, Banksy mentioned the advantages of street art in general, that having to make all your mistakes in public is the best and worst part of his job. The last question was in a response to the controversial Banksy: The Unauthorized Retrospective, a curated art exhibit and auction by Banksy’s former agent, photographer, and assistant Steven Lazarides. The art was sold without Banksy’s consent and Lazarides mentioned to The Guardian that “I emailed his people, they know. Not pleased.”

“As a kid I always dreamed of growing up to be a character in Robin Hood,” Banksy said about the gallery and auction, “I never realised I’d end up playing one of the gold coins.”

“Eavesdropping” was discovered by Karen Smith, the owner of the house that Banksy painted, who awoke early in the morning to men packing up a white tarpaulin. “I thought it might be something to do with the police, like when a crime happens,” Smith told the Gloucestershire Echo, “I heard people talking all night and couldn’t sleep, but I didn’t look out, as you get used to people out there all the time.”

Smith’s personal opinion of the piece is that it “livens up the street a bit,” which is modest praise for art by one of the most famous artists in the world.

Since the revelation, the piece has been sold to private collector Sky Grimes for an undisclosed amount and his scaffolding company has been set to carefully remove “Eavesdropping” and make any necessary repairs to the home. Before it goes into Grimes’ private collection, it will be shown in a London gallery for a month while a special frame is made. All in all, the accidental owner of a Banksy piece just found themselves a great payday.

The street artist still is a bit like Robin Hood.

banksy robot art

Banksy Bio

Perhaps more than anyone other graffiti artist, Banksy has come to embody acceptance of his chosen form as art and graffiti’s unwillingness to fit into the way we usually consume art. Banksy’s work rebels against the usual means of looking at art, as graffiti has since the beginning, but also continues to work against how we purchase art as well. All quite the lisrt of accomplishments for someone who may not even exist.

Banksy is the pseudonym of a person (or persons) whose identity (or identities) is a closely guarded secret, we are unsure who he (or she) may be. He operates in secret across the globe, usually working with what must be large stencils and a vast network of resources. Some estimate Banksy’s operations in his hometown of Bristol, England would have to include a vast warehouse, but exactly where this warehouse is, and whose name is on the rental agreement, is still one of the artist’s many guarded secrets.

Work attributed to Banksy began in the 90s in Bristol, where the artist is presumed to have grown up. His graffiti, like many in the underground England scene at that time, relies heavily on stencils, probably for how quickly they can be applied. His art touches on themes of anti-government and anti-establishment, especially on the subject of war, a frequent target in his work. He also uses images of monkeys and other animals to undermine authority figures, as well as a healthy dose of humour, for a distinct look, voice, and aesthetic that can be quickly be seen as “Banksy.”

Another distinctive feature of Banksy’s art is how it speads over just a single wall, often using multiple surfaces, including ceilings and floors, to move the boundaries of graffiti. Since graffiti is technically vandalism, Banksy’s insistence on using multiple surfaces defies the legal issues surrounding his art form, and creates more challenges for those needing to clean it up.

But for all his use of monkeys and humour, how Banksy sells and distributes his art is equally mischievous, perhaps best illustrated in his recent trip to New York. He apparently set up an art stand in Central Park to sell originals of his art for as little as $5, not revealing whose art it really was. Those who bought the pieces didn’t know until the stand had long disappeared that the art was Banksy’s and would have easily sold for a hundred times the price. Much like Andy Warhol, a man whom Banksy has imitated on occasion, Banksy pushes not only the boundaries of what is considered art, but also how we consume it. If Warhol can sell a painting of a Campbell’s soup can for thousands of dollars, why can’t Banksy sell original pieces for hundreds times less than their estimated value? Graffiti, at its core, is about displaying art, both in places that are difficult to regulate, but also difficult to monetize. Banksy’s mischievous marketing and art distribution avoids many of the usual means of making money as an artist.

Still, Banksy’s carefully guarded identity is a testament to his ability to stay secret (even with an Oscar nomination under his belt for Exit Through the Gift Shop), but also to the respect he has even within his own community. During his trip to New York, many local graffiti artists professed to know him (reports also suggest The Daily Mail has his name on file, but refuses to release it), but no one has yet broken his secret. To do so would probably ruin the man from Bristol who’s changed graffiti forever, but no one so far has decided to cash in on such a valuable secret. Until then, Banksy remains a secret, despite being everywhere.