21 August 2018

Magnificent palazzi, impressive hotel collections and lodgings that have accommodated Punk poets and painters: We take a journey through legendary hotel beds and addresses at which art plays an extraordinary role.

By Katharina Cichosch

The symbiosis of artists, art and hotels is as old as the hotel industry itself – although it has probably never been fueled by quite so much marketing fervor as it is today. Aside from all that though, hotels, with their facilitation of the temporary over the settled, may, at least in theory, still represent good promotors and venues for art.



Chelsea Hotel, New York

23rd Street is the location of this New York bedrock of modern pop-culture hotel myths, which was closed in 2011 and is on the verge of the dreaded luxury renovation. Even as it was completed at the end of the 19th century, the Chelsea Hotel was larger than life, with its twelve stories in Victorian-Gothic style, taking up virtually an entire street. Far from being a classic glamorous destination though, it was instead a place where artists, writers and intellectuals often spent months or even years – sometimes with their entire families. Patti Smith lived and worked here in a tiny apartment with her boyfriend, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, likewise the “Sex Pistols” singer Sid Vicious with his girlfriend Nancy Spungen, who died in the Chelsea Hotel in circumstances that remain not entirely clarified to this day.

Chelsea Hotel New York, Image via projects.dbinyc.com

Arthur Miller’s plays date partly from his time at the Chelsea Hotel, the screenplay for Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” was also written here, and Leonhard Cohen sang about an encounter with Janis Joplin at the famous two-star establishment in “Chelsea Hotel #2.” The guestlist of fine artists includes Jasper Johns, Francesco Clemente, Niki de Saint-Phalle and Willem De Kooning, but the longest-staying guest was Alphaeus Philemon Cole: This American artist first moved into the Chelsea aged 77 and ended up staying until the end of his life 35 years later.

La Colombe d’Or, Saint-Paul de Vence

In the USA there was the Chelsea, but on the other side of the Atlantic, between Nice and Cannes, artists had been descending on the much more sedate La Colombe d’Or ever since its establishment in the early 20th century. The list of temporary house guests reads like a who’s who of the classical modern movement: Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall are just some of those who liked to spend more than just a week of vacation here. Discretion was guaranteed – and even today, with the hotel in the hands of the third generation of the family, scant attention is given to the famous names that have briefly been part of the hotel’s history. Because before the painters arrived, there were others: Jacques Prévert, for example, the French writer, who resided here during a shoot by filmmaker Marcel Carné. Many artists, thinkers and poets became friends, and the establishment’s art collection grew as if incidentally. What, according to a widespread anecdote, was perhaps down to the fact that some of the guests allegedly payed their bills regularly in paintings…

Picasso at the Colombe d'Or © Office de Tourisme de Saint Paul de Vence, Photo: Jacques Gomot
Miró at the Colombe d'Or © Office de Tourisme de Saint-Paul de Vence, Photo: Jacques Gomot
Hotel Louis C. Jacob, Hamburg

Since 1993, this private hotel in Hamburg’s riverside suburbs has been run by a family of art patrons. With 500 original artworks in their  collection, the hotel’s own advisory board chose a suitable hanging place for each individual piece. There is a focus on maritime subjects, matching with the location on the Elbe – some of which, such as the famous view of the the Lindenterrasse – the hotel’s own cafe terrace –  were supplied by then house guest Max Liebermann. The fact that it can now be seen in position as a kind of mise en abyme is one of the delightful coincidences that came with the change of ownership.

Liebermann room at Hotel Louis C. Jacob © Hotel Louis C. Jacob
Max Liebermann, Terrasse im Restaurant Jacob, 1902-1903
Lindenterrasse © Hotel Louis C. Jacob
Broomhill Art Hotel, Devon

Even from far off, the oversized red ladies’ shoe can be seen rising from the bushes. In the stream lies a man gazing skywards, while amid wild vegetation and typically English landscaped gardens, pink steel structures and blue-painted windows are waiting to be discovered: At the Broomhill Art Hotel the art is found primarily outside – the hotel’s sculpture park features permanent and temporary works in all varieties of contemporary sculpture. Once a year artists are invited to take part in a sculpture competition, with grants provided for the works. Other hotels with their own sculpture gardens include the WANÅS Hotel in Sweden, with around 70 site-specific works in a forest, including one by Yoko Ono, and the Hotel Gräflicher Park in Bad Driburg, Germany.

Broomhill Art Hotel, Devon, Image via www.broomhillart.co.uk

Various Palazzi, Florenz

Florence has no shortage of sumptuous paintings and statues from days well beyond modernity, and here, as throughout the country, there is a good selection of small and large hotels in which murals, paintings and statues from the Renaissance or Baroque periods can be found in quantities almost fit for a museum. The Palazzo Magnani Ferroni, dating back to the 16th century, is one of these, another is the Four Seasons Firenze, which is located in an enormous palazzo (into which the establishment’s own collection of paintings slots seamlessly) featuring original frescoes.

Four Seasons Firenze, Image via kiwicollection.com

Four Seasons Firenze, Image via kiwicollection.com

The Swatch Art Peace Hotel, Shanghai

What initially sounds like an advertising slogan or substandard output by Google Translate is actually a hotel by the well-known Swiss watch brand in Shanghai, China. Some of the works of art that hang and stand here were produced directly in situ as part of the artists-in-residence program. Now a popular feature of many other establishments too, the artists-in-residence program is pursued with particular verve at the Swatch Art Peace Hotel. Hence, participating artists are given an entire floor of the hotel to work, with apartments, studios and shared spaces for cooking, meeting and exhibiting.

Artist Workshop © Swatch Art Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Lovelace Hotel, Munich

This establishment opened in 2017 and operates for just two years: Munich’s Lovelace Hotel is described as a “hotel happening,” a pop-up enterprise that aims to be a meeting place, an exhibition venue and a hotel in one. Anyone can come here to view (art) films or to play ping pong. You’ll need some money to make a room reservation, however, but for that you’ll get to sleep amid paintings by Florian Süssmayer and Vitra design objects.

Lovelace Hotel München, Fototapete von Florian Süssmayr, Image via www.dreso.com

Hotel chains with individual art programs

It’s not only longstanding establishments and boutique hotels that are focusing on art – more and more hotel chains are adorning their premises with original artworks too. Some have dedicated staff and programs for their own art collections – or set up collaborations locally. In this manner, guests at Le Méridien are able to get free entry into museums and galleries thanks to “Unlock Art,” which also offers occasional opportunities to see temporary art exhibitions, performances, or film screenings.

Neïl Beloufa, Occidental (Filmstill), 2017 © Bad Manners

The American hotel chain 21C Museum Hotels is true to its name: Founded by two art collectors, in locations from Cincinnati to Nashville these hotels all offer their own exhibition areas that are open to the public. In the Spanish luxury hotel chain Derby, meanwhile, art, architecture and design form part of the thoroughly curated “signature” element: Each individual hotel has its own area of focus for its collection, be it pre-Columbian art, Catalan Art Deco jewelry, or even Hindu art objects from the 16th century.

21c Museum Hotels, Cyclone, Freeman and Lowe, Image via www.21cmuseumhotels.com