The provocative and mysterious British artist Banksy has done it again. As the most controversial and enigmatic figure in the art world, Banksy always raises the bar when it comes to pulling off clever and thought-provoking works. His latest work of art is a fully operational hotel in an unexpected part of the world.
The Walled Off Hotel, a playful take on the famously posh Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, is located in Bethlehem. The 10-room hotel overlooks the West Bank, a tumultuous part of the world currently under Israeli occupation. Banksy has commented that the rooms in his new hotel offer some of the bleakest views in the world, meaning that guests get to see the occupied neighborhoods patrolled by Israeli soldiers as well as the Palestinian way of life.
As can be expected by its location, the hotel is not exactly luxurious or comfortable with one exception: the Presidential Suite is lavish but gets its water from a water tank that is riddled with bullet strafe marks. The budget rooms are furnished with the type of bunk beds that are typically found in army barracks. The views are of the concrete wall that divides the West Bank from Israel, although one balcony looks directly over a pillbox, a fortified machine gun emplacement that international law disallows but Israel routinely places on some of its borders.
Aside from the hotel rooms, the Walled Off Hotel also features an gallery that exhibits the works of Palestinian artists living under occupation. Since the hotel is located on the Israeli side of the border, Palestinians are not allowed to stay there; however, guests must make an illegal border crossing across the wall, which has not been effective in controlling illegal immigration.
Banksy is the most successful underground artist of all time. He has been able to shield his identity even at a time when social media and widespread surveillance make such endeavors very difficult. Banksy’s work tends to be very political and advocates social justice. Rumors suggest that Banksy is Jewish but has never supported the Israeli occupation of Palestine.