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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.

picture of artist jr

JR Bio

JR is a French street artist who’s largely illegal art projects have blurred the lines between art and vandalism, spectator and actor, and expression from activism. Unlike many other graffiti artists, JR specializes in photography and often flyposts his work in places where street art is banned, and sometimes can even land you in jail. In all of his work, he seeks to raise awareness about the problems facing certain groups, and each is a combination of daring and insightful that often leaves people, and lawmakers, in awe.

portraits of a generation by JR

He first rose to prominence with Portraits of a Generation, which took pictures of inner city “thugs” and plastered all over his hometown of Paris, France. Posted in many places where the 2005 riots were at their most violent, Portraits of a Generation challenged many people’s preconceptions about who were involved in the riots, and for what reasons. Many of the posters were removed within a few days as they were illegally exhibited, but the project raised people’s awareness of Paris’ race problems, and their newest street artist.

face2face jr

The success of Portraits of a Generation only made JR more bold, and he decided to travel to Israel and Palestine for his next exhibit. Called Face2Face, the project sought to show both sides of the conflict as people with more similarities than differences. He traveled to both countries, taking closeup photographs of people who were asked to make faces of certain emotions. The pictures were then placed all over Palestine and Israel in the largest unauthorized street exhibit in history, with faces from Israelis and Palestinians placed right next to each other to emphasize their similarities.

women are heroes by JR

But it was JR’s next project that has brought him the most amount of success, and let him travel to the most number of places in the world. JR turned his attention to women with this project, whom he says “play an essential role in society but who are the primary victims of war, crime, rape and political or religious fanaticism.” To bring awareness to women’s roles in conflicts around the world, he decided to create a series of female gazes, flyposting pictures of women’s eyes so that they look out on the world around them, and called it Women are Heroes. He started the project in Rio de Janeiro in 2008, but has since done similar projects in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Kenya, India, and Cambodia.

inside out project by JR

Women are Heroes brought JR even more international attention and allowed him to branch out from activist artist to activist, using money and resources he’s acquired to not only continue to comment through his unique brand of street art, but to be actively involved in change. He won the 2011 TED Prize, which he used to establish the INSIDE OUT participatory art project. Through the fund, JR and his foundation “gives everyone the opportunity to share their portrait and make a statement for what they stand for. It is a global platform for people to share their untold stories and transform messages of personal identity into works of public art.” To date, more than 200,000 people from more than 112 countries & territories have participated.