Why do high-end galleries jump in the bed of luxury hotels?


The relationship between the art and hospitality industries has always been one of mutual mistrust. In fact, the prospect of guests glancing half-heartedly at the walls during dinner horrified Mark Rothko so much that he canceled his first major order for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York City in 1959.

Today, however, the two sectors realize that they can accomplish more together than separately. As those vaccinated return to travel after a year-long hiatus, hotels and galleries are equally eager to welcome them (and their large disposable income). Like any sane marketing ploy, the union between art and luxury hotels is designed to create an atmosphere that the wealthy want to be a part of and return to again and again.

“Collaborating with hotels isn’t about splashing art all over the place and hoping for a sale,” said Kamel Mennour, the Parisian dealer who helped dress the art at Palace Le Bristol in Paris. “It’s an opportunity to create an experience outside the walls, and offer a different context for artistic encounters.

Last year Galleria Continua opened a permanent space inside the St. Regis in Rome. (The current Ornaghi & Prestinari art exhibit features works ranging from $ 3,700 to $ 12,200, several of which have sold.) In London, Gagosian outfitted the Mews at Connaught, a three-story townhouse in Mayfair, with works by artists ranging from Louise Bourgeois to Marc Newson.

The interior of Mews, a private house in London with artwork provided by Gagosian.

At the end of 2018, the owners of Hauser & Wirth even opened their own hotel in the Scottish village of Braemar, the Fife Arms, which is adorned with 16,000 works of art and design.

Room service doesn’t come with a price list… yet.

History lesson

These types of collaborations are still relatively new. La Colombe d’Or in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France, is probably the only inn historically better known for its oil on canvas than for the quality of its bedding. Beginning in the 1930s, artists like Matisse and Picasso traded works for an overnight stay, turning the place into a ad hoc residence.

“Hotels are generally decorated with objects chosen by interior designers meeting precise specifications,” said Raffaele Fabrizio, owner of luxury textile brand Dedar, which frequently collaborates with high-end hotels. “Art is used for its aesthetic and non-disruptive value.”

The first modern hotel to use art to attract a hip clientele was Soho House. Founded in 1995, the company created a dedicated account to acquire art to adorn its growing empire. The budget ranged from £ 150,000 ($ 213,000) to £ 400,000 ($ 567,000) per venue, with works mostly acquired directly from emerging artists for prices ranging from £ 1,000 ($ 1,450) to £ 5,000 ($ 7,000). (The most expensive prize was £ 20,000, or $ 28,300.) Instead of money, artists often received hotel stays, food, and club memberships.

Hôtel le Bristol in Paris, courtesy of Hôtel le Bristol.

Hôtel le Bristol in Paris, courtesy of Hôtel le Bristol.

“The galleries weren’t getting involved and the artists weren’t concerned about bartering,” said curator Francesca Gavin, who purchased most of the pieces for Soho House. “They wanted to spend time in the clubs.”

The barter strategy not only allowed the company to develop a unique look (Gavin even covered some of the bathrooms with Jonathan Yeo pornographic wallpaper), but it turned out to be a wise investment (although the works are not for sale). Gavin remembers buying an engraving by Cyprien Gaillard for a few thousand pounds. “Forget about getting your hands on one now,” she said.

A wider change

The growing wealth of emerging markets began to cement the union between art and luxury hotels around 2000. “Affluent clients from Asia, Russia and the Middle East wanted to stay in lavish properties where they could spend. – and flash – their newly earned money, ”said Vadim Grigoryan, luxury consultant and founder of Spirit and Spirit. Luxury hotels wanted ways to entertain an international clientele who had started collecting art – and galleries stepped in to help.

Today, the Soho House model has given way to a more professional model. Production and installation costs are usually covered by the galleries, who see the hotel as an opportunity for both highly targeted advertising and additional exhibition space. The best hotels no longer barter directly with artists and rarely take a share of their sales.

As part of a typical agreement, the Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme hired curator Constance Breton in 2019 to manage an exhibition of works by Gregor Hildebrandt in the hotel bar, restaurant and lobby. The Hildebrandt, Emmanuel Perrotin and Almine Rech galleries share the costs. According to Breton, about 50 percent of thBuyers for the show were from the hotel and 50% were gallery clients. (Both galleries declined to comment.)

An installation by Daniel Buren at Château La Coste in Provence.  Courtesy of the hotel.

An installation by Daniel Buren at Château La Coste in Provence. Courtesy of the hotel.

But for serious collectors, hotels are not yet an obvious or frictionless place to purchase art. “Hotels are clearly making an effort to put more interesting pieces on their walls,” said Artnet News collector and columnist Kenny Schachter, “but they haven’t figured out how to facilitate sales yet.”

One hotel widely regarded as an example of the fusion of hospitality and art is Chateau La Coste in Provence, which has worked with Pace on exhibitions by Yoshitomo Nara and Lee Ufan and with Lévy Gorvy on an exhibition of works by Pat Steir. The property’s vineyard is also home to over 30 monumental works, including those by Richard Serra, Tadao Ando, ​​Sean Scully and Alexander Calder. They also have this Frank Gehry Pavilion, originally built for the Serpentine in London.

These hotels sometimes serve not only as an exhibition space, but also as a collector. Chateau La Coste owner Paddy McKillen bought Daniel Buren’s colorful glass roof from Kamel Mennour after seeing it at Palace Le Bristol in Paris. In 2019, the owner of Domaine de Etangs Garance Primat bought a work by Anselm Kiefer from Thaddaeus Ropac because, she said, “she needed it for [a] show ”in the exhibition space of the hotel.

A complete mix

One would assume that even in this new paradigm, luxury hotels would be looking for harmless, Instagram-friendly artwork. But if that’s all they wanted, they could hire an interior designer. Many are looking for more memorable and challenging work. “We are not here to shock, but to dare, challenge and educate,” Mennour said.

The C21 Museum Hotels, founded in 2006 by American collectors Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, shares a similar vision. “We are not afraid of any subject and have shown works by Kara Walker at Yinka Shonibare,” said Alice Gray Stites of the hotel chain, which handles the art at the group’s nine locations. “Our staff discover the works and learn how to interact positively with all types of audiences.”

Gray Stites gets loans and museum collaborations and goes to a few art fairs a year to keep up to date. In recent years, she has acquired a JR from Jeffrey Deitch and a Leo Villareal from Pace. Dealer Sean Kelly visited Louisville to discuss Marina Abramovic screening The artist is present in the hotel, presented in partnership with the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts.

Installation of THE KID, I Believe in the Promised Land, (2019).  21c Museum Hotel in Chicago.  Courtesy of Angela Garbot Photography.

Installation of THE KID, I believe in the promised land, (2019). 21c Museum Hotel in Chicago. Courtesy of Angela Garbot Photography.

These platforms can also be used to uplift emerging artists. Five years ago, Gray Stites purchased a work of Titus Kaphar with a silhouette of Michael Jordan for around $ 25,000. After hanging it at C21’s Oklahoma City location, it didn’t take long for NBA players training nearby to express their interest. She sent them to the Jack Shainman Gallery, raising Kaphar’s profile along the way. Today his work sells for six-figure sums.

According to Vadim Grigoryan, the pillars of a successful luxury hotel business are nature, community, culture and food – and after the pandemic, he says, those pillars will be more important than ever. By following this column, Vadim has brought immersive and sustainable landscaping, haute cuisine inspired by Mayan-Mexican traditions, and local artwork to the Azulik Hotel in Tulum. A nearby art museum, which currently displays works by Ernesto Neto, is free for hotel guests.

“I can’t imagine a luxury hotel of tomorrow,” he says, “without the art being integrated into the subtlety of the experience.”

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