When it comes to hotels, art isn’t just about decoration. CLARK KELLY says it can serve to embellish brand identity
As a savvy interior designer putting together plans for projects, you already know about repetition and about echoing colours in art in a room’s colour scheme. But art deployed in commercial projects can do more than simply provide visual relief, fill an empty wall or spark a conversation. From brand positioning to offering a sense of place, hoteliers and other managers of commercial property are thinking outside the frame and challenging employees and visitors.
Art is now a fundamental element of hotel design, often echoing its very identity – and not just at art hotels. Middle East Interiors takes a look at a few ways art can maximise the message.
Manhattan Lounge: Leaves motif
echoed on the carpet
With the wide range of nationalities visiting and resident in the region, projects must convey a sense of place. And art is the easiest way to do that. Although some say there may be relatively few regional inspirations for artists to pick from, the result often being pieces that are often little more than pastiches, it pays to look beyond the mashrabiyas, desertscapes and camel renderings that are so popular. Stay away from the generic. Even if budget is a constraint, the UAE photography studio firm Gallery One offers both prints with an olde-worlde feel to them and quirky, digital interpretations of local themes such as a multicoloured pop arty take on the gutra, the headscarf worn by Emirati men.
Alternatively, look at different ways of treating these well-worn themes. At the Desert Islands Resort and Spa by Anantara on Abu Dhabi’s Sir Bani Yas Island, guest rooms feature a triptych of square stucco works, each with a gazelle, a close-up of the mashrabiya and a starfish. In plain off-white, the combination immediately roots the visitor in Abu Dhabi, in the Islamic world and on an island. The new St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort in Abu Dhabi takes a three-dimensional approach to leaves, in its rooms and suites, or by lighting up mashrabiyas from behind in its Manhattan Lounge, the motif being echoed on the room carpet.
Award-winner: The Henry Jones
INVOLVE THE COMMUNITY
Supporting the community you’re in is very good for business. By putting art from local artists efforts on show, the smart businessman invites members of the area over the threshold, generating valuable footfall and perhaps possible business.
When guests step into the lobby of the Philadelphia Airport Marriott hotel, they are greeted by art installation that depicts the history of Philadelphia through art and imagery. The exhibit, which is themed – Philadelphia: Small Works…Big Dreams – showcases paintings and drawings by local artists which reflect their expression of the city and each artist’s place in it. The community art wall was established in 2009 as part a renovation, which General Manager Sandra LeBlanc said at the time tied the hotel’s lobby environment into a feeling of Philadelphia, at the same time involving the community. And because the art is dynamic, changing as new works are added and pieces sold, it encourages people to keep coming in.
BRANDED FOR POSTERITY
Art can establish a sense of the brand very effectively, without resorting to anything so tasteless as a logo reinterpreted on canvas.
The newly opened Sofitel Abu Dhabi, for example, uses art to channel its French heritage, displaying works by well-known artists. The lobby harbours an authorised and certified painting of a Pierre Soulages, French artist known as “the painter of black” and Jean Cocteau lithographs whilst sculptures inspired by Brancusi are also displayed.
Aesthetic value: Themed room at
Henry Jones Hotel and magnetised
maps from Future Mapping Company
This is a strategy insiders say positions the hotel as uniquely French, with all the well-established brand attributes that come with that tag.
Across the pond, the luxury ITC Maratha hotel in Mumbai uses paintings that draw inspiration from the ancient Indian cave frescoes at Ajanta and tribal works by Warli painters to both root the hotel in Maharashtra state as well as to endow it with a sense of palatial grandeur.
IN HISTORY WE TRUST
When designing for new-build projects and others in cities that don’t have a lot of contemporary history, art can help establish an enduring sense of history by harking back to the past.
One company doing fabulous work on this front is the Future Mapping Company in London, which combines arresting cartography with striking design. Its finest are magnetised maps with the world’s countries proportionally represented, as against traditional maps. These are available in bright colours such as red and gold, and printed using a lithographic printing process onto coated, silk-finish paper. The company also creates wallpaper from maps for a feature wall within a project.
A rare map used decoratively conveys a sense of seriousness and gravitas, its refined aura perfect for libraries, lawyers’ offices and boardrooms.
THINK BEYOND CANVAS
What sort of interiors statement do you want to make? When putting together a look that reflects the times we live in, eschewing painting in favour of installations or artsy interiors fittings. The Fullerton Bay Hotel in Singapore, which opened in 2010, features stunning interiors that combine modernity and heritage. While Hong Kong designer Andre Fu uses vintage nautical maps and commissioned contemporary art to celebrate the heritage and modernity of the island nation, it is in the 17-metre lobby that his work is most effective. The wall behind the main reception desk features a stunning rosewood- and glass-panelled floor-to-ceiling three-dimensional geometric artwork that simply immediately puts the hotel – and the city – at the very forefront of contemporary chic.
ART AS A DIFFERENTIATOR
At the very rarefied level, of course, art can also help hotels stand clear of the clutter. The Henry Jones Art Hotel, in Hobart, Tasmania, has clearly set itself apart as a hotel for art lovers. Housing more than 300 contemporary works of art, it has, since its opening in 2004, has won a number of awards for its design, among other parameters. Each room unit is differently themed and guests are encouraged to make their reservations on aesthetic value.
Dubai residents have had a similar experience at the Aspen Café at the Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates, whose walls are home to periodic art exhibitions held in collaboration with local galleries. Among the successful shows held at the gallery recently was On The Wall, a series of paintings by Syrian artist Baseem Rayyes.