Research Case Study

​Curating Walled Off Hotel with Banksy

The hotel with the worst view in the world makes an artistic point.

  • Tagged under

    Digital, creative and cultural
    Economy, business, politics and society

  • Lead Academic

    Dr Gavin Grindon

Art historian and curator Dr Gavin Grindon has helped Banksy create a Museum of Colonialism at the heart of The Walled Off Hotel which the artist has opened in Bethlehem.

Dr Grindon, from the Centre for Curatorial Studies in the School of Philosophy and Art History, said: “I co-curated the exhibition with Banksy and 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.”

Exhibits within the Museum include a Victorian-style mechanical automaton depicting the signing of the Balfour Declaration with more material being added over time.

Empowering or baffling?

“It's meant to be a space that's both empowering and informing for people," Dr Grindon told CNN.

Emma Graham-Harrison from The Guardian commented: “A small museum explains the wall, the controls on movement and the troubled history of the region. 'If you are not completely baffled, then you don’t understand,' the presenter of a video history signs off.”

Dr Grindon previously worked with Banksy on the deliberately depressing theme park Dismaland in Weston-Super-Mare in 2015 - helping to create the Museum of Cruel Designs.

This new venture in the Middle East offers views of graffiti-strewn concrete from every room.

The Walled Off Hotel is a three-storey immersive piece of art and also a fully functioning hostelry. Situated just five metres inside the huge security wall that separates Israel from the Palestinian territories, it enjoys direct sunlight for just 25 minutes a day.

A view to make you think

“It has the worst view of any hotel in the world,” says owner Banksy. He has secretly converted a former pottery workshop under the shadow of an army watchtower into "a hotel, tea shop, home-made museum with en-suite art gallery and graffiti supplies store - an all-inclusive vandals resort.” Many of the bedrooms and hallways have been decorated by Banksy with his trademark stencils in what constitutes his largest new body of work for many years. He has even designed some of the menu items.

In acknowledgment of Britain’s historic role in the region, the hotel is decorated to resemble an English gentleman’s club from colonial times. High Tea is served in fine china to the sound of tinkling on a baby grand piano. However, the refined ambience has been brought right up to date - the oil painted seascapes are awash with refugee’s lifejackets, statues choke on tear gas fumes and cherubs fall to earth starved of breath.

Banksy said: “It’s exactly one hundred years since Britain took control of Palestine and started re-arranging the furniture - with chaotic results. 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.”

Research team
  • Dr Gavin Grindon, Centre for Curatorial Studies in the School of Philosophy and Art History, University of Essex