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When hotel rooms become art galleries

Hotels around the world are offering a more intimate experience with contemporary art as they decorate their rooms with famous and up-and-coming artists.

There’s no need to go to a museum to admire works of art while on vacation. Now the artworks come to you, right in your hotel room. In recent years, hotels have transformed themselves into veritable galleries, offering their guests genuine artistic experiences.

The idea of sleeping just inches away from a masterpiece can be a particularly exciting proposition. Cultural institutions like France’s Fondation CAB have understood this, and are giving art lovers the chance to extend their visit by spending the night among the artworks. But museums and galleries aren’t the only ones coming up with these kinds of ideas. Hotels all over the world are acquiring quality works of art to satisfy a luxury clientele in search of new experiences.

This is the case of the Ace Hotel Brooklyn, located in the Boerum Hill neighborhood not far from Downtown Brooklyn. This boutique hotel and cultural hub has 287 rooms, decorated by the architectural firm Roman and Williams in a Brooklyn-inspired spirit. Since July 29, all the rooms have been adorned with original works by textile artists who have an intimate relationship with the New York neighborhood.

This project aims to reflect and celebrate the work of local fiber and textile artists, while embellishing each of the rooms with unique details, the hotel explains. The establishment commissioned Niki Tsukamoto to select the 20 or so artists participating in this new kind of initiative, as well as to design a textile work herself. In the fall, the hotel will allow its guests to discover all the artworks created in an exhibition in its art gallery.

 

The golden age of ‘art hotels’

The Ace Hotel Brooklyn’s foray into the arts is far from unique in the hotel industry. Boutique hotels have now given way to “art hotels,” where the sleek decor is dotted with paintings and sculptures by some of the biggest names in contemporary art. Travelers staying at Casa Malca in Tulum, Mexico, for example, can admire artworks by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mark Ryden and Keith Haring, while those staying at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess & Beach Club in Bermuda are greeted by the giant “At This Time” sculpture by KAWS.

This strategy is nothing new: in 1984, the American entrepreneur Ian Schrager commissioned a series of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe for the “first boutique hotel in history,” the Morgan in Manhattan. But the “art hotel” has gained considerable ground in the last five years, as evidenced by The Silo Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa. This five-star hotel occupies the top five levels of a concrete former grain silo complex, which has also been home to the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art (MOCAA) since 2017.

This proximity to MOCAA greatly influenced the design of the hotel, which was entrusted to the collector and owner of The Royal Portfolio hotel group, Liz Biden. She chose to exhibit established and emerging African artists such as Cyrus Kabiru, Mahau Modisakeng and Nandipha Mntambo in the hotel’s 30 rooms and suites, as well as in the lobby and the hotel’s various other spaces.

“I have always included wonderful art at each of The Royal Portfolio properties. Art brings a space to life, it creates warmth and tells stories. But moreover, art takes you on a journey which evolves as we evolve,” said Liz Biden. “Our guests love to enjoy the art collection at our properties. The Silo Hotel takes that art experience to a new level with a focus on contemporary African art…”

 

Art consultants and selfie addicts

The boundaries between art galleries and hotels are becoming increasingly blurred as hotel groups surround themselves with art consultants and exhibition curators to personalize their properties. The owners of the Wythe signed up Kimia Kline to curate the art programming at this luxury establishment, located in the trendy Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg. She compiled a collection of sketches and works on paper by contemporary artists from the Big Apple, including Katherine Bradford, EJ Hauser, Russell Tyler and Annette Wehrhahn.

“Having these incredible drawings and paintings on our walls gives the hotel a real soul and connects our guests to artists they might not have ever heard of otherwise,” Kimia Kline told Citizen Femme. “Our programming is always free and open to the public, allowing access to literally everyone.”

While hotel industry professionals see art as an opportunity to add a little more soul to their establishments, it can also help raise their profile on social networks. At the Dolder Grand, in Switzerland, for example, visitors often pose in front of the “Chapel of Remorse” stained-glass windows by Jani Leinonen. This proves a PR masterstroke for the Zurich hotel, and all the other establishments whose works of art are photographed from all angles by numerous tourists. What could be more fitting in the age of “travel porn”?