NEW YORK -- As hotels seek to better position themselves as
cultural hubs and experiential hot spots, properties across the U.S. are
increasingly placing an emphasis on art.
For example, the Conrad New York's lobby is home to a
dramatic, 13-story Sol LeWitt painting titled "Loopy Doopy."
"Art in a hotel is no longer just for decoration,"
said the Conrad's general manager, Marlene Poynder. "It is now a voice
that builds a hotel's identity and sets it apart from the rest."
While the trend has been on the upswing for years, it came
further into focus in August, when AccorHotels acquired a majority stake in the
21c Museum Hotel brand for $51 million.
Alice Gray Stites, 21c Museum's director and chief curator,
said, "Today's travelers seek more than just a comfortable bed and warm
meal. They are looking for meaningful experiences that connect them to
communities and engage them with new ideas. Learning is the new luxury."
The 21c concept, which combines a contemporary art museum
with a boutique hotel, has eight locations in Arkansas, Ohio, North Carolina,
Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and Oklahoma, indicating that demand for
art-centric properties has spread far beyond traditional cultural capitals such
as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, where luxury and boutique hotels have
long leveraged their proximity and access to culture and the arts.
That's not to say hotels in those cities have lost any of
their cultural cachet. Along with "Loopy Doopy," the Conrad New York
features more than 2,000 pieces of contemporary art across its public spaces
and guestrooms. It also hosts a series of rotating exhibitions, with the most
recent highlighting the work of Los Angeles-based street artist Morley.
Likewise, the newly opened CitizenM New York Bowery hotel
garnered buzz with its Museum of Street Art. The museum features work by a
collective of artists involved with 5 Pointz, the factory complex and graffiti
mural site in Long Island City, Queens, which was demolished in 2013. Spanning
21 stories of internal stairwell, guests can access the Museum of Street Art
with their keycards, while the public can make free reservations to tour the
museum through Resy, the online restaurant reservation app.
Meres One at work on CitizenM New York Bowery's Museum of Street Art.
For the fourth consecutive year, the Peninsula Chicago this
fall hosted an art exhibit concurrent with the annual Expo Chicago art
exposition. This year's show, titled "But I'm on The Guest List!,"
was curated by the nonprofit FLAG Art Foundation and included works by artists
such as Jennifer Dalton, Elmgreen & Dragset, Ewan Gibbs and Carlos Rolon,
Perhaps nowhere is the art-hotel connection more apparent
than in Miami Beach in December, when the annual Art Basel Miami Beach festival
transforms the city into one of the world's art meccas. Hotels morph into
showcases for art, and artists, dealers and buyers congregate in lobby bars and
One of the most buzzed-about, art-centric properties is the
Faena Hotel Miami Beach. Concurrent with this year's Art Basel, the hotel
played host to an array of artistic programming during its first Faena
Festival. Billed as a multidisciplinary art event, the "This is Not
America" exhibit featured commissions, installations and performances by
artists such as Derrick Adams, Cecilia Bengolea, Alfredo Jaar, Isabel Lewis and
Another mainstay of the Miami art scene is the Sagamore
hotel, which mounts a new exhibit every 60 days year-round. During Art Basel,
the Sagamore's resident art adviser, Sebastien Laboureau, curated an exhibit
highlighting work by Grammy-winning musician Jason Newsted and other creatives.
Nowadays, East Coast properties stretching from Sarasota,
Fla., to the Jersey Shore are upping the ante when it comes to art curation.
Artist and photographer Nicole Cohen was recently tapped by
Long Branch, N.J.-based boutique Bungalow hotel to spearhead an interior
redesign of the property and curate an in-house collection of her work.
"In general, there's been a shift toward people's
attitudes toward art in the mainstream," Cohen said. "Art used to be
seen as something untouchable, but I think social media and the internet have
democratized it, and as the general public has been exposed to better design,
it's created a wider audience for great art. The hospitality industry has
realized that it's a growing niche."
The Bungalow recently bolstered its art-centric offerings
with the opening of Bungalounge, a bar and gallery that will house rotating
collections by local artists.
The Art Ovation Hotel in Sarasota, which opened in April and
is part of Marriott's Autograph Collection, similarly seeks to showcase
regional talent, but it also makes efforts to highlight artists from far-flung
locales. In addition to offering guests the opportunity to mingle with local
artists and watch them work in the in-lobby art studio, Art Ovation's latest
rotating exhibition features artists from Venezuela, Germany and Cuba.
Art Ovation also hosts free art-and-wine tours daily and
encourages guests to embark on their own creative journeys, equipping each
guestroom with sketchbooks, art supplies and even ukuleles. Guests can opt to
borrow other musical instruments, including an acoustic guitar, cello, steel
guitar or banjo.
According to Lisa DiFranza, Art Ovation's cultural curator,
the hotel's robust programming attracts not only art enthusiasts but also those
who have never stepped foot in a gallery.
"Galleries and museums can be intimidating or stuffy,
while hotels are more of an everyday space that's public, and people are
familiar with hotel lobbies," DiFranza said. "So this allows people
to connect with art in a fresh way. Sometimes during the tours people will say,
'Wow! I've never spent an hour looking at art before.'"
While not explicitly branded as an "art hotel"
group, Provenance Hotels' portfolio of 12 properties has also made art central
to its boutique positioning. Among its more art-focused concepts is Old No. 77
Hotel & Chandlery in New Orleans, which collaborated with local gallery
Where Y'Art to create "artist loft" suites curated by New Orleans
artists Saegan Swanson, Tish Douzart and Leroy Miranda Jr.
Other initiatives at the Old No. 77 include an exhibit from
Where Y'Art this December and a partnership with the New Orleans Center for the
Meanwhile, the Autograph Collection's Adolphus Hotel in
downtown Dallas, which boasts a substantial in-house collection, is looking to
further enhance its cultural programming.
The historic property recently debuted the Salon, a series
of cultural conversations centered on art, philosophy and literature. Developed
by artist Lucia Simek, the program is billed as a modern take on the
traditional French salons of the 17th and 18th centuries and is held monthly in
the hotel's French Salon Room, which houses artwork curated by Simek.
"Hotels are capitalizing on the fact that visitors
coming into their cities are often already interested in art and culture,"
said Simek. "If a hotel is also able to present itself as a cultural
destination, it's smart. And cultural tourism is such a huge thing globally
right now, so it makes sense for the hospitality industry to move further in