11 Pieces of Truly Awesome Hotel Art
By Juliana Shallcross
Traditionally, the artwork hanging in hotels has been nothing to look at, let alone admire. In the past, most hotels opted for bland landscapes or depressing nature scenes, usually of the faux watercolor variety and almost all of it mass-produced. It's so bad it's now an ironic joke; recently, budget chain Super 8 Hotels hosted an art show featuring “not so super” art that had been languishing on the walls of Super 8 Hotels. Guests at the show could literally take the old hotel art off the wall home with them for free—so the company could refresh the walls with contemporary black-and-white photographs.
Fortunately for art aficionados and travelers alike, hotels are now putting serious thought into the art that’s found in their guest rooms and public spaces, often hiring local or well-known artists to create original works. Here are 11 hotels that are installing art that, simply put, does not suck.
Hotel El Ganzo, San José Del Cabo, Mexico
An independent boutique hotel located away from the popular tourist corridor of Cabo, El Ganzo has an ongoing Artist in Residence program in which contemporary artists are invited to make a mark on the hotel—literally—in the form or murals, drawings, and installations. On the rooftop, a larger-than-life Stormtrooper from the Star Wars movies was painted by Mexican street artist Andrik Noble.
Hotel Max, Seattle
Mixing hometown pride with a play on spelling, the Hotel Max has put up a mural on its southwest exterior that proclaims in letters six feet tall: SEATTLE DOESN’T SETTLE.
Hotel Indigo LES, New York City
Famous 1970s subway car artist Lee Quinones has paid tribute to the rapidly gentrifying Lower East Side neighborhood with a large-scale mural on the ceiling of the Hotel Indigo’s Sky Lobby. The installation features Polaroid snapshot-inspired paintings of residents—past and present—who’ve contributed to the LES’s unapologetically bohemian history, and there have been pieces by other contemporary artists including Mr. Brainwash.
Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles
Visitors will get a kick out of the old screenplays that line the walls of the elevator bank of the Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles, located in a still slightly gritty part of L.A.—United Artists, co-owned by Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford, bankrolled the original building. But there’s more to admire in the hotel’s L.A. Chapter restaurant and bar, which features hand-drawn pencil illustrations painstakingly done by furniture designers the Haas Brothers. They're of famous Los Angeles landmarks and, of course, famous people, too.
Faena Hotel, Miami Beach
The dazzling renovation of the old Saxony Hotel in Miami Beach has put art at the forefront of the experience, starting with The Cathedral (a glamorous way to refer to the lobby), which features striking floor-to-ceiling murals by Argentinian painter Juan Gatti that are done in vivid colors and rimmed with gold leaf. Gatti created the designs for the 632,000 mosaic tiles that line the floor as well. Faena also has two sculptures by Damien Hirst—one of which is a glass-enclosed 24k gold skeleton of a woolly mammoth.
This Gold Coast hotel has made its awesome art gallery a bit tough to find. The Secret Stairwell is located between the Thompson's 2nd and 4th floors and features original works from Chicago artists painted on the walls. The gallery is open to the public.
Hotel Vintage, Portland, OR
Hoping to bring a bit of the street art culture of Portland into its public spaces, the Hotel Vintage hired an artist to tag their upstairs adult game room with freestyle graffiti, giving the wine-themed hotel a bit of a grittier, industrial edge. Aside from clever wine-themed designs that are found in the rooms and suits (such as art made from wine corks), this hotel has secret stairwell art, too.
Speedboat transfers are de rigueur at Maldivian resorts. Indeed, each resort in this remote tropical nation is located on its own island in the Indian Ocean. Yet W Hotels’ speedboat, nicknamed Marilyn, stands out from all the others, thanks to the psychedelic mural from by street artist Alec Monopoly which covers this huge piece of practical art.
Corinthia Hotel London
An extraordinarily opulent yet modern chandelier greets guests in the Lobby Lounge of the Corinthia Hotel in central London. Known as the Full Moon Chandelier, because of its moon shape, the piece was designed by Chafik Gasmi and built by Baccarat, the luxury crystal house. It’s composed of 1,000 crystal baubles in three different sizes, plus a single piece of Baccarat’s signature red crystal. Each bauble has a special LED light embedded within it and together, they emit a glow akin to the light of a full moon across the main area of the hotel. But this is no delicate piece: The chandelier weighs two tons and requires 531 cables.
The Dolder Grand, Zurich, Switzerland
The castle-esque luxury hotel on the edge of the Adlisberg forest in Zurich displays 124 pieces of important art, including works from Andy Warhol (pictured), Henry Moore, Takashi Murakami, Salvador Dali—and Sylvester Stallone. (He's also an expressionist painter.) The art is a major reason to stay here: During their stay, art-curious guests may borrow iPads with a special app that guides them around the property on an art tour.
The New Hotel, Athens, Greece
Brazilian design brothers Humberto and Fernando Campana transformed the once-traditional Olympic Palace Hotel in Athens into the New Hotel, a truly contemporary boutique property. But bits of the Olympic Palace still remain—literally. The hotel’s New Taste restaurant is lined with old guest room furniture that was broken down and repurposed into "Favela columns" inspired by the urban shantytowns often found in Brazil. The New Hotel, which is owned by prolific art collector Dakis Joannou, also has a rooftop Art Lounge that features a library of over 2,000 art books.