The Artful Hotel

Where every room is a gallery — By Kim Gray

Hotel Arts, Calgary / Caution Horse painting by Bruce Pashak / Illustration by Helen Eady Creative

Hotels can be memorable for so many reasons.

I’ll never forget my sleeping quarters at the Travaasa Hana—one of my favourite Hawaiian hotels. My seaside cottage featured a bed with a soft mattress pillow and silky sheets that, together, enveloped me like a down-filled bird’s nest. I slept more deeply than I ever knew was possible.

The Post Hotel in Banff National Park serves up a dreamy breakfast called Swiss Potato Roesti—a combination of eggs, shredded potato and gruyere cheese that arrives at your table in a small, sizzling-hot, cast-iron frying pan. Unforgettable and delicious mountain fare.

In Paris, The Murano Urban Resort also stands out in my memory. The resort, now closed but once famous for its popularity among British rock stars, featured wild design elements: water glasses that wobbled, a guest’s thumb impression in place of a room key card (very James Bond) and black, yes black, toilet paper.

Most recently, the emphasis of onsite art displayed throughout prominent hotels is leaving a more notable impression than usual. We’re talking significant art, often locally inspired, as opposed to the kitschy, badly framed prints that once haunted the walls of travel accommodations everywhere.

 

Hotel Arts / Chandelier by McKinley Burkart Design Group / Illustration by Helen Eady Creative

Hotel Arts / Chandelier by McKinley Burkart Design Group / Illustration by Helen Eady Creative

 

Calgary’s Hotel Arts distinguishes itself in this regard. “Art is the basis of our aesthetic and we infuse it into everything we do—from our private collection and trend-setting decor to our creative culinary offerings,” says spokesperson Christie Goss of the award-winning hotel.

As an aside, local company Calgary Food Tours partners with Hotel Arts on its urban eatery and art experience “Palette to Palate,” which includes an introduction to permanent collection pieces such as “King“—Tim Okamura’s painting of civil rights activist Martin Luther King.

Instagrammer and designer Lori Andrews, who regularly seeks out staycations at Hotel Arts (see Andrews here on a recent visit), says she appreciates that hotel management isn’t afraid to challenge their guests.

“I always stop and look at everything. Some pieces are amusing. Some are subversive. The entire hotel is a visual experience, which makes me happy,” says Andrews. “I personally try to seek out interesting hotels. I’ve stayed at The Ace Hotel in New York, Portland and Palm Springs. These guys are always switching up youthful art in their spaces.”

 

Hotel Arts / Art by Chris Cran / Illustration by Helen Eady Creative

Hotel Arts / Art by Chris Cran / Illustration by Helen Eady Creative

 

On the West Coast, the Rosewood Hotel Georgia boasts one of the largest collections of Canadian art in the world, including Douglas Coupland’s “Electric Landscape” series. The historic property makes for one heck of a gallery and I’ve often witnessed hotel guests lingering in front of various pieces and paintings as they travel to and fro.

Philip Meyer, the property’s managing director, says guests are invited “to view the hotel not just as a place to sleep, but also as a place to explore, discover and learn.”

I’m also hearing rumblings about the Drake Devonshire in Prince Edward County, Ontario where public spaces in and around the property boast impressive contemporary art installations.

As a result, the hotel, which even features a giant dumpster cast in bronze, was described in a recent Globe and Mail article as a “magnificent and captivating space.”

And in Quebec, Hotel Le Germain Charlevoix (formerly known as Hotel Le Ferme and originally built by Daniel Gauthier, the co-founder of Cirque du Soleil) lives and breathes the notion of artful hotel.

“We have a partnership with the local contemporary art museum here that we’re hoping to develop even more, ” says general manager Sylvie Dionne, adding that the property itself recently won “Top Design in the World” at the Retail & Leisure Interior Awards.

“We make every effort so that wherever you put your eyes, you are sure to see something beautiful,” says Dionne. Currently, a series of images by photographer Monique Voyer is on display at the hotel, an exquisite commentary on the fragility of Antarctica and the planet as a whole.

Newfoundland’s Fogo Island Inn takes the notion of art-friendly hotels a step further, offering up the “Fogo Island Arts international residency program” and with it, a vibrant, in-house gallery which greets visitors as they enter the property. (Janice Kerbel and Abbas Akhavan are just a few of the artists who have partaken in the program.)

“The gallery creates a platform for exchange between guests, artists and the local community, building a sense of place that extends beyond our island home,” explains Alexandra McIntosh, director of programs and exhibitions.

 

Hotel Arts / Light fixture by Barry Fairbairn / Illustration by Helen Eady Creative

Hotel Arts / Light fixture by Barry Fairbairn / Illustration by Helen Eady Creative

 

Canadian poet Lorna Crozier (who also doubles as Toque & Canoe’s travelling poet) frequently stays at Calgary’s Hotel Arts when she’s in town. She once mentioned how fond she is of the property so I reached out to ask why. Let’s give this celebrated wordsmith the last word on artful hotels:

“If one of the definitions of a great city is that it inspires a love of art, then how wonderful that the love affair begins in the hotel when you check in. This happens at Hotel Arts. Paintings enliven the lobby walls. My favourite? A huge panel with the image of a nearly life-size horse. It’s the essence of horsiness, an equine Buddha that asks only that you are mindful, that you pay attention to what’s around you, now.

“At night, you feel as if you’ve been allowed to sneak into a gallery in the silence of after hours. And they’ve given you a bed and room service to make you comfortable in your artistic reveries. In each room, rather than the standard paintings most hotels buy by the railroad car, the eye is drawn to gallery-quality oils and watercolours and three-dimensional abstracts.

“An original piece of art on the wall beside your bed is the last thing you see before you fall asleep. Surely, it enriches your dreams.”

 

 

*Note to reader: This post is the result of an arms length collaboration with Hotel Arts Group, who did not review or edit the story before publication.

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  1. Judy commented:

    What a great piece on special hotels. However there is one that should be added and that is Retro Suites in Chatham, Ontario. A very special hotel indeed. Check it out and see if you agree. retrosuites.com

    Reply

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