Abode of the Artists: The Suite Life

Aditi Bhaskar | April 22, 2024 | Art

In an age where experiences reign supreme, there is a trend emerging in luxury hospitality. Synonymous with meticulously curating details, luxury hotels aim to provide unforgettable experiences but today’s discerning travellers seek more than just a place to rest their heads. The bar is being raised by embracing in-house art galleries to stimulate the senses and inspire guests. Each artwork adds a layer of depth to the guest experience, bridging the gap between art and hospitality.

Belmond is a renowned hospitality group known for its posh properties in picturesque settings around the globe. Collaborating with Galleria Continua, Belmond has pioneered the concept of integrating high art into the fabric of its luxury hotels, combining world-class artists and spectacular locales. For instance, the exquisite Villa San Michele in Florence, Italy, a revamped 16th-century monastery perched atop a hill overlooking the city’s iconic skyline. Surrounded by lush gardens and boasting breathtaking views of the Duomo, this palatial retreat is a masterpiece in its own right. The cosy-refectory-turned-gallery is adorned with works by renowned artists like Sun Yuan and Peng Yu- sculptures about the intersection of art and life, originally displayed in Seoul, titled “Teenager, Teenager”. As Peng Yu eloquently put it, “With this, it becomes a part of life. Just like the ubiquitous art of Florence.”

Leandro Erlich’s Window & Ladder (2022) accentuating the view at Villa San Michele, Florence

This marriage of art and hospitality is not limited to Villa San Michele. Belmond’s Mitico initiative aims to bring curated and commissioned pieces by esteemed artists to its properties worldwide. Founded in the medieval town of San Gimignano, Galleria Continua has grown into a powerhouse in the contemporary art world, with outposts in Paris, Beijing, Rome, and beyond. Led by curator Lorenzo Fiaschi, Galleria Continua brings decades of expertise to Mitico, ensuring each artwork resonates with its surroundings and enhances the guest experience. On display at various Belmond properties are iconic Cuban sculptor Yoan Capote’s artworks including “Stress”, a bronze sculpture, in the Sicilian town of Taormina. Labelled “Follow the Art Path”, artworks have been scattered across the Grand Hotel Timeo and its gardens, overlooking Mt. Etna and the Mediterranean Sea. The artwork symbolizes teeth being crushed under the pressure of concrete i.e. psychological stressors, evoking a collective empathy and connecting its viewers to the Cuban sculptor.

But it’s not just Belmond properties that are embracing this trend. Luxury hotels around the world are transforming into veritable art galleries, showcasing everything from priceless masterpieces to contemporary creations. Rome Cavalieri, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel, boasts one of the largest private art collections in the world, encompassing over a thousand pieces. It features large museum-quality paintings from the 16th century, including three canvases by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, costumes, antiques and contemporary art while The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore houses one of the largest collections of contemporary art in Southeast Asia, including pieces by David Hockney, Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, and Zhu Wei. In addition to the art tour led by the concierge through the hotel, guests can also download brochures for self-guided tours.

Museum-quality artworks worth more than $10 million at The Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans encompass paintings, sculptures and furnishings. More than 60 artists from the 17th to late 20th centuries are a part of the collection, including originals by William Powell Frith, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough and Jacob Huysmans. Meanwhile, the Italian hotel Lungarno in Florence boasts more than 400 pieces throughout its townhouse residence, including pieces by Piccaso, Cocteau and Bueno, as well as Italian artists Cassinari, Guidi, Fusi, Morlotti, Rosai, Sironi and Tosi.

Artworks on display at The Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans

While the alpine views are enough to put The Dolder Grand, Zurich on a traveller’s radar, the spa hotel is also dotted with artworks by Salvador Dali, Anish Kapoor, René Magritte, Keith Haring, Takashi Murakami, Joan Miro, and even Sylvester Stallone. The art collection, referred to as “An Art Mecca” by Forbes, has been curated by Zurich’s very own Galerie Gmurzynska. Their digital art guide allows guests to dive deeper into the background of each artwork.

Qatar’s former Ministry of Interior, in the capital of Doha, now houses The Ned- designed by Lebanese architect William Sednaoui and reimagined by the Pritzker-winning architect David Chipperfield. The hotel forms a fine example of brutalist architecture from the 1970s and draws art lovers for its hotel-wide collection of over 350 artworks by more than a hundred Middle-Eastern artists, mainly women. The hotel features Qatari textile artist, Maryam Al-Homaid’s hand-dyed wool art as well as Afghan-Canadian artist, Hangama Amiri’s paintings, among others. The collection has been curated by the co-founders of Mathqaf Arab Museum of Modern Art, Wadha Al-Aqeedi and Elina Sairanen.

Warhol’s “Big Retrospective Painting” at the foyer of the Dolder Hotel

Further to the north, Hotel Diplomat in Stockholm, owned by the infamous purveyors of art- the Malmström family, features works by notable Swedish artists Anne Olofsson, Daniel Sandberg, Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd, Helene Schmitz, David Svensson and many more, complimented with curation of contemporary photography exhibitions at the hotel.

Going back to history, The Opposite House in Beijing, presents permanent as well as rotating exhibitions, showcasing archaeological fragments spanning several dynasties as a part of porcelain sculptures by Li Xia Feng. Other Chinese artists, such as Fiona Lai-Ching Wong and Wang Jin, explore the relationship between local and global, modern and traditional influences.

These haute properties all over the world are destinations in their own right, where luxury and art go hand in hand, that too in the most spectacular settings imaginable. Whether it’s admiring a centuries-old masterpiece in a historic villa or posing for a portrait by a renowned painter in Monte Carlo, hotels are redefining the concept of luxury hospitality. So the next time you check into a luxury hotel, take a moment to appreciate the art that surrounds you – you never know what masterpiece awaits around the corner.

Words by Aditi Bhaskar.
Featured image by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu.

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