The term “hotel art” is generally used to describe bland imitations of serious artworks. It’s meant to dismiss, even ridicule, work that is primarily decorative and extremely easy on both our eyes and our minds – a corporate committee’s version of visual white noise.
Spend the night in most hotels or motels around the world and you’ll hardly notice the paintings on the walls or the sculptures in the lobby. Most of what you’ll see has been selected because it blends in with the decor and is anything but challenging or engaging. The rooms and public spaces in generic hotels are designed to be anonymous.
There are, however, a few hotels around the world that don’t follow this business model. These hotels cater to people who frequent galleries and museums. People who display original artwork in their own homes. People who choose to stay in a hotel filled with invigorating, even challenging, images and objects.
Let’s look at three art-centric hotels that feature real art in their lobbies, guest rooms and public spaces…
The 21c Museum Hotels is a chain of seven hotels located throughout the midwestern United States. The original hotel in Louisville, Kentucky was launched in 2006 by art collectors Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson. Like all the other locations in the chain, this first hotel is housed in a repurposed historical structure (here it’s a 19th century tobacco and bourbon warehouse).
The image above is a guest room in the Nashville, Tennessee hotel. The room is designed by L.A. based media artist Yung Jake.
Other artists who have been featured at different 21c Museum Hotels throughout the chain include internationally known artists such as Bill Viola, Andres Serrano, Kara Walker, and Alfredo Jaar.
The Dolder Grand in Zurich is a recently remodeled historic hotel dating from the late 19th century. Mixed in among the elegant architectural features of the building visitors will find over 120 mid-20th century to contemporary era works of art by world famous artists. Above the front desk, for example, is the 36 foot (11 meters) long Big Retrospective Painting by Andy Warhol.
The image above is a sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle located in one of the hotel’s courtyards. Other artists on display throughout the hotel include Fernando Botero, Sol LeWitt, Joan Miro, Henry Moore, and Damian Hirst. Visitors can request the loan of an art iPad at the front desk that contains information and location for each of the artworks in the hotel.
The Henry Jones Art Hotel in Tasmania, Australia is located in a repurposed early 19th century jam factory on the waterfront in Hobart. The architects who rehabbed the building saved much of its original character including the stone/brick walls and heavy wooden beams. The building has so much visual presence that the hotel’s 400 pieces of art merely add another layer of character to the guest rooms and lounge areas.
The art collection at the Henry Jones is focused exclusively on contemporary work by Tasmanian artists. The image above is a photograph of the Clarendon House by Ruth Frost.
The next time you travel check ahead and see if there is an art hotel (or a hotel noted for its collection) at your destination. Coming back at night to an interesting and thought provoking space will add greatly to your tourist experience.