By Laura Pearson for the Orbitz Travel Blog
Drab landscape paintings, sad still lifes, framed stock photos, garish lobby sculptures. Too often hotel art is amateurish and unconsidered—if not an outright affront to visual aesthetics. Not so at these five art hotels, featuring carefully curated, high-caliber works by both emerging and established talent. Here, art isn't merely decoration but a defining feature of each hotel's identity, so don't be surprised if, on the way to your room, you stumble upon an on-site gallery or jaw-dropping collection.
It's right there in the name: This boutique hotel, located in renovated 19th century tobacco and bourbon warehouses in downtown Louisville, is home to a 21st century contemporary art museum. Two art collectors and philanthropists opened 21c Museum Hotel in 2006, and since then, the free museum has exhibited many living artists of note, including Chuck Close, Tony Oursler, Kara Walker, John Waters and Sam Taylor-Wood, as well as various up-and-comers. Red penguins, by Cracking Art Group, are cheekily scattered throughout the property, while the lobby, well-appointed guest rooms and adjoining restaurant are similarly art filled. The unique concept has proven popular: 21c Museum Hotel has expanded to other cities and regularly pop-ups on "best hotel" lists.
Opened in 1925, this landmark Manhattan hotel and celebrity haunt was designed in a Renaissance revival style by Robert T. Lyons. In 2006, artist Julian Schnabel was enlisted to reimagine and refresh the interiors, adding bold color, custom fixtures and uncommonly juxtaposed materials and textures—think rustic wood beams and ornate rugs. Gramercy Park Hotel's modern-yet-opulent vibe extends to its impressive art collection, which includes works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Cy Twombly and Andy Warhol, among others.
This chic boutique hotel thoughtfully integrates artwork by local and international artists—both newbies and established names&151;throughout the premises. From large-scale photos covering a lobby wall, to site-specific installations in the hallways, to modern prints adorning minimalist guest rooms, the James hotel has a stylish, contemporary feel. But what it doesn't feel like is pretentious. The James' proximity to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago is an added plus for the art curious.
Le Meridien Chambers, Minneapolis
This stunning hotel is located in two landmark revival buildings in Minneapolis' downtown theater district. Rooms and public spaces display more than 200 original pieces of contemporary art from the private collection of owner Ralph Burnet. See edgy works from the Young British Artist movement, including that of Tracey Emin, Angus Fairhurst, Damien Hirst and Gary Hume, as well as rotating exhibitions in the on-site Burnet Gallery.
The contemporary art installations at this immaculate hotel add a dose of drama to its understated color scheme (intended to mimic the San Francisco fog) and modern décor. More culture lies within—The Museum of the African Diaspora is located inside the luxe St. Regis—and just beyond: The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is located right next door.
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