“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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.