Can a hotel inspire you? Move you even? Watching my daughter frenetically sketch in a leather-bound book in the foyer of Brisbane's newest Art Series hotel makes me think they got it right when deciding on namesake artist Vincent Fantauzzo. Seated beneath his arresting portraits of Guy Pearce and Heath Ledger, and a giclee print of the extinct Tasmanian Tiger, my girl is lost in a parallel universe where characters in her head demand to be put on paper.
If not inspired, you'll definitely feel like you're being watched at The Fantauzzo, which is carved into the cliff beneath Brisbane's iconic Story Bridge. It could be the soulful blue eyes of Asher Keddie upon you as you check into the 166-suite hotel (Keddie is Fantauzzo's wife). Or perhaps the intense stare of young indigenous actor Brandon Walters following you down the corridor. The Fantauzzo is the eighth Art Series hotel (the first under the Accor banner) and in many ways its most personal – a dramatic backdrop for four-time Archibald People's Choice Award winner Fantauzzo's acclaimed works. Staying here invites you to get to know the artist; hear his story. Perhaps even get creative yourself.
While Art Series' other properties (a ninth has been announced for Perth) feature the works of older statesman artists such as John Olsen and Charles Blackman, The Fantauzzo feels edgy and positively youthful, bursting with more than 500 artworks (both originals and reproductions) by the Melbourne artist. There are portraits of Fantauzzo and Keddie,, artist Ben Quilty plus his pensive Archibald Prize-winning portrait of son Luca dressed as Superman.
The $100 million hotel sits beneath the span of Brisbane's most famous steel cantilever bridge, overlooking the revived Howard Smith Wharves – the city's hippest new hood. Steps away is the Anna Spiro-designed Mr Percival, a whimsical octagonal bar lapped by the opaque river. Nearby, Arc - headed by talented Sydney chef Alanna Sapwell and also designed by Spiro- features a 400-strong wine list and a locally and ethically sourced menu. A Riverwalk to the west takes you to New Farm; the other direction to the city and Botanic Gardens.
Inside the six-storey hotel, industrial chic suites are inviting and cosy. Half face the river offering various vistas of the 79-year-old bridge; the rest face the towering cliff face that looms behind.
It was Fantauzzo's take on photorealism that inspired architecture firm SJB to create a contrasting backdrop using dark tones and glossy finishes that challenge the traditional "white gallery" space. Emerald green sofas, faux leather upholstered chairs and metal cube tables have a softening effect and lend a glamorous edge to the industrial luxe theme. Even the bathrooms are black (apparently a challenge for the housekeeping team).
You can hire a Lekker bicycle and cycle the waterfront, have a bite to eat in the hotel's relaxed Italian eatery Polpetta and swim in the striking rooftop pool with its impressive city and river panorama. We enjoy several swims despite inclement weather. The bridge feels so close you could reach out and touch it. Complimentary art tours, in-room art channels and libraries are offered for guests to learn about Fantauzzo's work.
Sheriden Rhodes was a guest of Art Series Hotels.
Rooms from $289 a night. See artserieshotels.com.au