It’s really frustrating. There you are, in a city where there’s a lively art scene and your itinerary is so crowded you don’t have time to visit a gallery or two. Sure, we’ve “done” the Louvre and the Prado, even the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, but there are many places boasting beautiful art collections you don’t get time to see.
Even if you’re not an art tragic, you can now indulge in art appreciation much more easily thanks to a new trend sweeping the world…hotels and resorts which double as art galleries. What a brilliant idea: the hospitality version of having your cake and eating it too.
In Australia we’re fortunate to have the Art Series Group which now has seven boutique properties under management, each devoted to the works of different Australian artists. So you can have a wonderful art experience while enjoying five star accommodation and creative inspiration to whet your appetite in the hotels’ restaurants or bars. Here are some suggestions:
MELBOURNE – THE BLACKMAN
Charles Blackman’s work is admired for its nostalgic depiction of urban life in the 50s, tinged increasingly with darker hues as a response to his wife’s deteriorating eyesight. An unabashed romantic, he saw the world as “a possible place for all one’s dreams and feelings”. His Alice in Wonderland series, in particular, made him world famous.
MELBOURNE – THE CULLEN
Winner of the Archibald Prize in 2000, controversial Adam Cullen used a highly personal visual language to portray subjects as broad as crime and animal/human behaviour. One of his best known works is an affectionate portrait of Growler, his favourite working dog.
MELBOURNE – THE LARWILL STUDIO
Co-founder of Roar Studios, a group of anti-intellectual expressionist painters, David Larwill was regarded by many as an Aussie larrikin whose work was “raucous, raw and primitive” touched with a sense of humour. “Art from the heart”, he was quoted as saying.
MELBOURNE – THE OLSEN
Awarded the Archibald in 2005 for a self portrait, John Olsen AO, OBE is Australia’s most famous contemporary landscape artist. He described his work as “an exploration of the totality of landscape”, a distinctive individual style that is immediately recognisable.
BRISBANE – THE JOHNSON
Michael Johnson’s eclectic, abstract paintings adorn the public areas as well as the guest rooms and convey a sense of classy modernity offsetting the building’s rather austere white architecture. Johnson’s vivid colour palette lifts the overall sensory experience creating an instant “wow” factor as you enter the lobby and again on entering your room.
ADELAIDE – THE WATSON
Another Art Series Group hotel in Walkerville, Adelaide, The Watson draws its inspiration from Indigenous artist Yannima Pirkali Tommy Watson whose colourful paintings portray striking images of desert colour.
Overseas, there’s a growing range of boutique hotels with an art theme. Here are some we would recommend:
AMSTERDAM – ART’OTEL
At Art’otel Amsterdam, the collection of avant-garde Atelier van Lieshout is on display throughout; there’s a spectacular 12 metre “art curtain” and the 300 square metre 5&33 Gallery which hosts a varied programme of exhibitions. An art curator is on hand to guide visitors around.
BEIJING – NUO HOTEL
The recent opening of NUO Hotel Beijing is a welcome addition to the city’s burgeoning hotel scene. Close to the heart of China’s contemporary art movement in the 798 District, NUO is a destination in its own right, home to a priceless series of works from the most critically acclaimed artists, including “China’s greatest living artist” Zeng Fanzhi.
BERLIN – ART’OTEL
Art’otel Berlin Kudamm is dedicated to the genius of Pop artist Andy Warhol and exhibits spectacular highlights of his work in a permanent museum-like exhibition. Guest rooms and public spaces are adorned with selected originals and signed prints, and a tour of the hotel provides an opportunity to trace the stages of Warhol’s development.
BUDAPEST – ART’OTEL
This is another Art’otel property in a wonderful location on the Buda bank of the Danube looking across to the photogenic Hungarian Parliament buildings. The hotel is an holistic concept featuring the artworks of American Donald Sultan whose paintings and sketches inhabit every room, the public areas and even collateral materials such as menus.
HONG KONG – THE LUXE MANOR
The Luxe Manor is an entirely different experience. Its owner, a wealthy Chinese businessman set out to create a unique atmosphere based on the Dada absurdist movement. The boutique hotel is populated by quirky echoes of Dadist art from the early 20th century, which mocked the bourgeoisie and their pretensions. Lots of fun.
There are no doubt many more hotels and resorts which have joined the gallery trend around the world, giving new meaning to “The Art of Hospitality”.