Now guests have the opportunity to discover and purchase local art work, without needing to seek out a gallery in an unfamiliar place.
Imagine waking up in New York's Museum of Modern Art, or tucking yourself into bed surrounded by rare photography or oversize sculptures. At Hotel Café Royal, a five-star hotel on London's prestigious Regent Street, that dream is now a reality in its signature suites. Guests are treated to a new exhibition each month showcasing established and upcoming artists from around the world, as well as an impressive permanent collection that boasts a striking and controversial portrait of Courtney Love by the acclaimed photographer David Lachapelle.
"We want our guests and members to have a distinctive experience when they visit," says Nigel Stowe, director of the hotel's art-filled private member's club gallery. "And our emphasis on art certainly helps to create that experience."
Indeed, an increasing number of luxury hotels are beginning to attract guests with the artwork that appears on their walls. From London to Bangkok, high-end properties are fast becoming a traveler's substitute for traditional art galleries, creating a more insightful luxury experience. "We 'educate' guests about art in that we host a diverse range of work, just as a gallery would. But our priority is ultimately adding to guest experience and enjoyment," explains Stowe.
Masaru Watanabe, general manager at the Palace Hotel in Tokyo, agrees that enhancing guest experience is a key motivation for investing time, effort and money in hotel art. But he adds that showcasing and curating local work and culture has also been part of his strategy from the outset. "We told [our curators] that all pieces must complement the hotel's overall design, a concept centred on the exquisite beauty of the nature surrounding the property, and also the rich culture of Japan in general," he says.
"We 'educate' guests about art...just as a gallery would."
The Palace Hotel's collection is diverse, ranging from traditional Japanese calligraphy on ink wash paper, to one-of-a-kind pencil sketches and chalk drawings of the local area, and sculptures made from stones indigenous to Japan. The property also boasts a pair of abstract nature paintings by a Shanghainese artist, and reinventions of paper art by both Japanese and Scottish artists.
"Discerning travelers seek out luxury not only in products, but also experiences. If we're able to introduce them to the richness of Tokyo and Japan then we'll have succeeded in delivering a well-rounded travel experience versus a mere hotel stay. Art can contribute greatly to this," says Watanabe.
Meanwhile at the lavish Sofitel Sukhumvit in Bangkok, art is the first thing that greets guests as they enter the building. The hotel's lobby features 72 city-inspired artworks from the French artist Charles Maze—one of the hotel's key aims is to make connections between French and local cultures in each of its destinations.
"Art is one of the pillars of the Sofitel brand. It allows us to give a deeper, different experience to our guests," says general manager William J. Haandrikman. "It serves to create interesting and memorable narratives about the property for our guests, which helps differentiate our offering from other hotels in the city."
All of the art at the Sofitel is for sale, giving guests the opportunity to purchase work without seeking out a museum or gallery in an unfamiliar place, says Martin Gerlier, curator of the Sofitel Sukhumvit's on-site S Gallery.
"For me, art is what really defines the luxury hotel experience. We are providing access to artwork as a service to our guests," he explains.
So how do in-house curators go about selecting the art for their properties? Dianne Vanderlip, curator at the ART hotel in Denver, employed a very particular approach in creating her hotel's collection.
"The first criterion was that every work was truly museum quality, that it could proudly be part of any first rate art collection," she explains. "With that standard guiding our efforts, we gathered an ensemble of contemporary artworks that would provide guests with unique and unexpected opportunities to enjoy those works."
Among the ART's works are Kiki Smith's sculpture Singer, which greets guests with different fresh flowers each day, while the hotel's lobby features a 22-foot-long tapestry called Industrial Strength Sleep by Ed Ruscha.
"Some of the works are playful, some serious, some quite advanced and some quite traditional. We chose works we thought would surprise and delight both art novices and more sophisticated collectors," Vanderlip says. "We hoped that among the wide variety of paintings, sculptures and photographs we selected, every visitor would find a few favorite works they'd want to experience again and again."
"We chose works we thought would surprise and delight both art novices and more sophisticated collectors."
The Chedi Club Hotel on the Indonesian island of Bali offers a more holistic artisan experience without compromising any of the premium atmosphere. With a collection curated by architect and designer Hendra Hadiprana, the property captures his creative vision and passion for art throughout. Visitors can also engage with art hands-on through The Chedi Club's programme of art-oriented activities.
"We enable visitors to create their own works and meet with artists. We want to help guests translate what they feel for Bali in the medium of art, with the help of a professional artist," Hadiprana explains.
For decades, the world's hotels were filled with generic art made by bulk manufacturers. But now, with so many lavish properties realizing that guests have an insatiable appetite for discovering local artwork, they are transforming their walls into art galleries of the future. Next time you're searching for the perfect place to lay down your head, be sure to check out the hotel's artistic credentials—taking home that beautiful canvas above your bed might make the trip even more special.