Banksy is something of an enigma in the art world – and not just because no average Joe knows his true identity. His heavy-handed imagery and symbolism, and constant political/cultural commentary, have both thrilled and divided art enthusiasts from London to New York to China.
He has a mission. He has a statement he’d like to make and he makes it, loud and clear and easy to understand, again and again.
But this isn’t meant to be a review, or even a comment, on his art. Nor of his bravado. Nor is it really a discussion about the phenomenon that has led to Banksy’s art pieces selling for millions of dollars, “Save Banksy” campaigns (watch an example in the video below) and his rabid, cult-like following.
We just wanted you to know that you will soon be able to own some of Banksy’s latest artwork at a much, much lower price point than the 6+ figures it has recently been selling for.
If (and it’s a big “if”) you head to the West Bank, to Bethlehem.
This is also where the artist’s controversial hotel stands. “The Walled Off Hotel,” as an apparent commentary on Israel and Palestine’s strained (to put it lightly) relationship, and the wall that splits the holiest of cities into two, offers the “Worst View in the World” (you can buy a t-shirt there that says so).
The gift shop will be located at the back of the hotel (not to be confused with the Banksy-themed store that opened up across the street in an attempt to capitalize on the artist’s celebrity).
Interestingly, it stands in “Area C” which is one of the few parts of the area open to both Israelis and Palestinians. There is, of course, commentary in that as well. But the actual tangible importance of this is not whether fans can get their hands on Banksy artwork, or if it sparks new commentary about the continued strife between Israel and Palestine, but that much of the $$$ spent on art at the hotel/gift shop/museum stays in the local surrounding community. And, perhaps equally important, the features local Palestinian artists in ways that would probably go otherwise unseen by the rest of the world.
You’ll be able to find crucifixes turned into giant grappling hooks, hand painted keyrings, and trinkets resembling parts of the infamous wall that separates Israel and Palestine, when the gift shop opens later this fall.
And they’ll be affordable, as we mentioned earlier. Items will range from $26 (for unique hotel room key fobs) and go up for larger and more customized pieces from there, but remain in a range that keeps them available to the average visitor.
And, while most items will be available only inside the gift shop, you will be able to find a few things (if a trip to Bethlehem just isn’t in the cards for you at the moment) for sale at the hotel’s online store.
Is this, the hotel, the art gallery, Banksy’s persona, just a reason for tourists to flock to the war-torn region?
But that wouldn’t, and couldn’t, be the whole story. The simple fact is that it will bring people to an area known mostly to Westerners in abstracts; in news footage and the clash of religion/tradition/practice. Maybe here is where people can and will learn the whole story, or at least more about it, for themselves.
Or just take a bunch of selfies.