Banksy in Bethlehem

This morning Banksy fans on Instagram were greeted with his first post since Dismaland a year and a half ago.

The image was a mysteriously ethereal, seemingly conceptual capture of falling white feathers on a teal background. Banksy’s fans reacted to this cryptic post with a variety of excited responses. Varying from:

‘What does it all mean???’

‘Where you been homeboy?’

‘OOOMMGGG HES BACKKKK’

‘Bansky we need u..the world needs u.’

To ….

‘WTF? Modern art shite!’

In actuality, the image of white feathers – symbolically associated with peace, and death – was a detail of a mural Banksy has painted for his latest project — never one to do things by halves this project is: hotel, protest and art.

Banksy Walled off Hotel

The clipped image is taken from a bedside mural – depicting what appears to be an Israeli soldier and Palestinian youth engaged in a vicious pillow fight — in Banksy’s new hotel, Walled Off Hotel. The hotel, a real hotel and not an art stunt, is located on the troubled barrier between Israel and Palestine in the city of Bethlehem, and contains with 10 rooms (9 rooms and one suite). The situating of the hotel on this barrier is to encourage tourism to Holy site of Bethlehem again, including tourism from Israelis, who are legally banned from visiting the city; but handily, Banksy has situated the Walled Off Hotel a little outside Bethlehem, where Israel still has control.

As well as the ‘pillow fight’ mural, other rooms include works clearly inspired by the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, protest works saying ‘Free Palestine’ and a number of other artworks in various mediums situated around the hotel. The 10 rooms will be open to the public to reserve on the hotel’s website later this month; and the hotel will host exhibitions by Palestinian artists (with limited ability to travel) to help them gain an — otherwise out of reach — international audience.

The parallel between the Biblical tale of Mary and Joseph searching for an inn in Bethlehem (in many ways, refugees themselves) and the few rooms available in this hotel, should probably not be overlooked either.