Less than two years since the massively successful resort venture Dismaland in Weston-super-Mare, Bristol, the notorious street artist/performance master Banksy opened a hotel venture today in one of the most contentious and dangerous part of the world in Bethlehem, just steps away from the West Bank wall. There wasn’t even a rumbling of this project on the Internet before today, so I was very surprised to see this news come out this morning. Named Walled-Off Hotel (sounds a lot like Waldorf, no?), it is a 10-room hotel managed and staffed by locals of the city and full of new works created by Banksy.
Reservation opens on March 11th, and guests will be able to stay in the rooms beginning March 20th. It is complete with a classic piano bar where music greats like Elton John and Massive Attack will be playing remotely through an automated piano, a gallery where Palestine artwork will be showcased, and a museum depicting the history of the West Bank in classic Banksy style.
The rooms themselves range from $30 for a bunk in the Budget room to $300 Presidential suite where you can feel like a sociopathic despot. Every room is furnished with interior decoration by Banksy, which seems like a logistic nightmare with entrepreneurial fans who might try their hand at acquiring a new Banksy work. To curb those efforts, there is a $1000 deposit for guests, although that seems like pennies when Banksy’s works sell for hundreds of thousands at auction. In addition, there is a check-out inspection to ensure no work has been defaced or taken from the room. I guess that should discourage foul-play. This is probably one of the few hotels in the world where you actually want to look at the art in the room.
Walled-Off Hotel is a quiet protest against the on-going political and military Israel-Palestine conflict that are affecting the ordinary citizens, but also a gift to these very citizens that are suffering because of it. I’m not going to pretend that I know much of what’s going on out there, but it’s not hard to imagine that thousands of new tourists will be coming by Bethlehem to pay pilgrimage to the hotel, which means a big boon for the local economy. According to the FAQ, Banksy is planning on keeping the hotel open for the year, but probably will be open as long as there are guests. I just hope the short attention span of today’s culture doesn’t let this establishment be forgotten too quick, leaving the local workers of this hotel jobless. This isn’t Banksy’s first time in the West Bank though, so clearly Israel-Palestine conflict is an issue that he cares deeply about.
The hotel piano bar, art gallery, and museum are open to non-guests, but you’ll have to be a paying guest if you want to visit a room. For those who cannot visit the hotel in person, it looks like a web shop called Wall-Mart (this sounds a lot like the retail giant Wal-Mart, no?) is going to open on March 20th. Based on what I’ve read, I’m not holding my breath for new Banksy prints, but I believe there will be at least Walled-Off Hotel themed paraphernalia.
I never thought that we’d ever call Banksy a hotelier.
Here are a few links for more information on this new hotel.