London's Beaumont and other hotels with cutting-edge artworks

         

When London hotel The Beaumont opened in 2014 it offered guests an original option – to stay inside a work of art.

Artist Antony Gormley's ROOM is a three-storey high abstract crouching figure bolted onto the side of the art deco hotel. Guests "inhabit" the sculpture, which consists of an all-white bathroom leading to a womb-like, fumed oak interior, and which is blacked out for sleep. It sounds a little bit creepy, but possibly the experience of a lifetime for an art aficionado.

If you say "hotel art", I think immediately of those framed botanical specimens, pastel swirls and generic travel photographs that line hotel corridors and reception areas. Most often this "art" consists of cheap prints, chosen by a decorator, but often not, with the sole purpose of putting some colour on walls.

I once met a successful artist who would lay 20 canvases on his studio floor, quickly roll over them with bright colours, and sell them to luxury hotels as original art. 

I see boring hotel art all the time, even in expensive hotels, and often wonder what committee or computer program chose it. If a hotel makes the effort to put art on its walls, it should at least try to make a considered aesthetic statement or support a local artist or craftsperson.  Otherwise, it's just a waste of wall space.

On the positive side, I've also seen some great art on hotel walls and in lobbies in recent years. There's no doubt hotels are thinking more carefully about this and many are contracting curators to purchase art that has significant artistic importance for the enjoyment of their guests.

Some hotels are even conceived as art galleries first, in a few cases where collectors have run out of space to house their collections. The art deco Sagamore Hotel in Miami was purchased and renovated to hold the collection of the fabulously-named Cricket and Marty Taplin because it had expanded so much it no longer fitted into their home. Otto Ernst Wiesenthal, the owner of the Altstadt in Vienna, and Urs Ernst Schwarzenbach, the owner of the Dolder Grand in Zurich, are both major collectors and their hotels rival state galleries.

Other hotels with significant collections include The Merrion in Dublin, which houses a stellar collection of 19th and 20th century Irish art, the Majestic Hotel and Spa in Barcelona, which has a thousand-item collection including Miros and Picassos, and The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore, with 4000 works by artists including Frank Stella and Henry Moore, which guests can access with a self-guided iPod tour.

Advertisement

Le Royal Monceau-Raffles Paris has an inhouse art concierge who will talk guests through the hotel's collection of innovative contemporary art, arrange gallery and studio visits and artists talks.

The Peninsula Beijing recently underwent a major refurbishment which included the installation of some valuable sculptures and paintings by modern Chinese artists, curated by Michael Suh, the director of the museum of Contemporary Art Beijing. The hotel includes a third-floor gallery and an art studio, where artists taking part in a residency program can work and interact with guests.

In Shanghai, the Swatch Art Peace Hotel has seven guest rooms and 18 workshops where artists can stay and work for up to six months.

There are so many important hotel art collections now that they are too numerous to mention here. In Hobart there is MONA Pavilions, where rotating works from the MONA collections are displayed and the Henry Jones Art Hotel, one of the first hotels in Australia to acknowledge that many hotel guests are also art buffs interested in works by emerging local artists.

Australia's Art Series hotels are boldly based on a single artist and his work – the Olsen, the Cullen, the Blackman, the Larwill, in Melbourne, the Watson in Adelaide, the Schaller Studio in Bendigo and the Johnson in Brisbane. Disappointingly, all seven hotels are named for male artists – I look forward to the group featuring a woman in future.

If the idea of sleeping with art is your thing, you can sleep in an actual gallery. The Proposal is a gallery in Zurich that combines art and hospitality in order to offer a "holistic" experience with the work on display. Art is conveyed in sleep – with beds for guests being part of the gallery concept.

If that's not interesting enough, perhaps a hotel out there might convince Tracey Emin to make up one of her crumpled beds for guests.

Comments