Essex University lecturer co-curated museum at Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem

A room in Banksy's Walled Off Hotel. Picture: BANKSY

A room in Banksy's Walled Off Hotel. Picture: BANKSY - Credit: Archant

An Essex lecturer has helped Banksy create a museum exhibition on colonialism at the graffiti artist’s new West Bank guest house offering the “worst view of any hotel in the world”.

Live from Banksy's hotel

I'm live in Bethlehem - getting the first tour of Banksy's Walled Off Hotel.

Posted by Krishnan Guru Murthy on Friday, 3 March 2017

Gavin Grindon, an art historian with the University of Essex, co-curated the Museum of Colonialism at The Walled Off Hotel, which the artist and political activist has opened in Bethlehem.

The hotel, described as a “three-storey immersive piece of art and fully functioning hostelry”, is just five metres inside the huge security wall that separates Israel from the Palestinian territories. It enjoys just 25 minutes of direct sunlight a day.

Dr Grindon, who also curated an exhibition at Banksy’s recent Dismaland show, said he worked on the project with a team of Israelis and Palestinians.

“The museum was prepared in secret, but now that it is open we hope it will become part of the local community,” he added.

Banksy claims the museum is “the world’s only visitor attraction dedicated to the biography of a single concrete structure”.

Featuring state-of-the-art audio visual presentations, it is intended to explain the wall to the many coach parties of tourists who pass through it every day on their way to Bethlehem’s holy sites.

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The hotel has been converted from a pottery workshop into “a hotel, tea shop, home-made museum with en-suite art gallery and graffiti supplies store - an all-inclusive vandals resort.”

Banksy has decorated many of the bedrooms and hallways with his trademark stencils in what constitutes his largest new body of work for many years.

Singer Elton John has been confirmed for its opening party, saying he was “honoured” to have been invited to perform.

“I have long believed in the unifying power of music,” he added.

“It can break down barriers and bring together people from all walks of life. With my music, I have always appreciated being welcomed by, and enjoyed performing for, audiences from all over the world. The Walled Off Hotel, like my music, is welcome to people from all sides of the conflict and across the world. Like Banksy, I am not allying myself with any political party or pressure group. I am simply embracing the opportunity to bring people together through my music.”

The hotel also features an art gallery on the first floor is exclusively dedicated to work made in the region. Curator Ismal Duddera says it marks a significant milestone that will “open an entirely new chapter of Arab art in general and Palestinian art in particular”.

The Walled Off is said to offer “easy access to Jerusalem, the Church of the Nativity and the Dead Sea” and is open to international visitors without a visa. The hotel is open to non-residents every day from Sunday, March 12, between 11am - 10pm.

Banksy said: “My accountant was worried some people will be too scared to travel to the West Bank, but then I remind him - for my last show they spent a whole day in Weston-super-Mare.”

Bookings will be taken via the hotel website from Saturday, March 11. It opens to overnight guests from March 20, 2017.