Art

Top image: People stand outside the Walled Off hotel, which was opened by street artist Banksy, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem March 3, 2017. 

British street artist, Banksy, has opened a hotel overlooking the controversial Israeli wall in Bethlehem. The hotel, which prides itself on the “worst view in the world”, is nestled just meters away from the barrier built around the occupied West Bank. All the rooms look out on to the concrete slabs of the wall and some have views over it to pillboxes and an Israeli settlement – illegal under international law – on the hillside beyond.

Aptly named “The Walled Off Hotel”, Banksy has – once again – attracted international attention for his work. A large-scale piece of protest art, his aim is to encourage new dialogue surrounding troubled region; according to Israel, the wall is needed to prevent terror attacks. Whereas the Palestinians say it is a device to steal land and the International Court of Justice has called it illegal.

A Banksy mural in one of the bedrooms speaks to the artist’s political views on the conflict. Photograph: Quique Kierszenbaum for the Guardian.

Furnished with artwork, the hotel is at once playful and deeply political. One graffiti depicts an Israeli soldier and Palestinian protester in the throng of a pillow fight, the feather fluttering down towards the real bed below. Throughout, the hotel has a dystopian colonial theme, a comment on Britain’s role in the region’s history.

 

A bust engulfed by a cloud of teargas in the hotel lobby. Photograph: Ammar Awad/Reuters

“It’s exactly 100 years since Britain took control of Palestine and started rearranging the furniture – with chaotic results,” Banksy said. “I don’t know why, but it felt like a good time to reflect on what happens when the United Kingdom makes a huge political decision without fully comprehending the consequences.”

Elsewhere, paintings of traditional seascapes illustrate beaches littered with life-jackets discarded by refugees and images of cherubs and babies wearing oxygen masks hang beside a wall of surveillance cameras. One room features a fire place that resembles the blaze at a bomb site and a classical bust which is cloaked in clouds of smoke snaking out of a tear gas canister.

Also in the building, there is a gallery showing the work of Palestinian artists. According to the curator, Housni Alkateeb Shehada, it is the first of its kind in Bethlehem and provides an amazing opportunity for native artists to reach a wider audience.

The presidential suite. Photograph: Ammar Awad/Reuters
The lobby is decorated with masked cherubs. Photograph: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

More information and bookings at The Walled Off hotel here.