Anish Kapoor at Burj Al Arab

Anish Kapoor likes to turn up where he is least expected. After taking to the gardens of Versailles in 2015, the British-Indian artist is taking Dubai’s Burj Al Arab hotel by storm. He is exhibiting a selection of previously unseen works on the second floor of the luxury hotel, in a temporary art gallery that the establishment has created in partnership with Galleria Continua.

These pieces illustrate the vast research on light, color and materiality that Anish Kapoor has carried out over the years. Among them are polished and reflective steel globes from his “Alice” series — which references the Lewis Carroll novel — as well as sculptures made of alabaster.

This is the first time since its opening in 1999 that the Burj Al Arab has hosted an art exhibition. Yet art is in the very DNA of the Emirate’s iconic hotel, according to Ermanno Zanini, the hotel’s general manager: “Art is a strong element for Burj Al Arab, for Dubai as well. The hotel itself is a piece of art. It’s a sculpture,” he told The Art Newspaper.

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Regaling a demanding clientele

The world’s only self-proclaimed seven-star hotel, the Burj Al Arab is easily recognizable thanks to its design inspired by the shape of a sail. Its international reputation makes it the perfect place for Galleria Continua to establish a foothold in the United Arab Emirates. “We see the opening of a temporary location in Dubai not only as an opportunity to consolidate and deepen the bond with the United Arab Emirates, but also as a way to contribute, with our energies and above all with the universal language of art, to the construction of dialogues and cultural exchanges between people,” said Mario Cristiani, Lorenzo Fiaschi and Maurizio Rigillo, founders of Galleria Continua, in a statement.

The opening of this art space allows the Burj al Arab to continue to satisfy its luxury clientele, always in search of new experiences. Many other hotels around the world are using art to add soul to their establishments, while guaranteeing themselves visibility and a worthy reputation on social media. This strategy isn’t new: in 1984, the American entrepreneur Ian Schrager commissioned a series of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe for the first-ever boutique hotel, Morgans Hotel in Manhattan.

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However, the trend has gained considerable ground in the last five years, as evidenced by the Silo in South Africa, Casa Malca in Mexico and the Dolder Grand in Switzerland. Their guests often pose for a picture in front of the many works of art that adorn them, highlighting the extent to which the boundaries between art galleries and hotels are becoming increasingly blurred.