Hotels are adding original works of art as decoration, but also to create a more authentic, memorable experience.

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When the 73-room Beaumont Hotel opened its doors in London’s Mayfair district in 2014, it made an artistic statement so conspicuous that not even passers-by could disregard it.

The building’s southernmost exterior is crowned by the British artist Antony Gormley’s inhabitable sculpture of a crouching man, which doubles as the property’s priciest and most conceptual suite.

Beaumont Hotel, London

“ROOM,” the official name of Gormley’s sculpture, is only one element of a very deliberate artistic focus that the owners Jeremy King and Chris Corbin, two of London’s best-known restaurateurs, placed at the center of their concept, one that hinges on a fictional story that King created to establish a sense of place. Collected in a span of three years by King and his wife, Lauren Gurvich King, the art selection at the Beaumont works on two levels.

“There is a simple, decorative element that alludes to a particular period, but there is also a strong narrative,” King said. “Each work supports the backstory I created about the New York hotelier Jimmy Beaumont who moved to London in the late ’20s to open his eponymous hotel.”

The art — a mix of more than 1,700 original paintings, photographs and prints that relate to places or people Jimmy would have known — serves to support the story and lend authenticity, the abiding buzzword today among hoteliers striving to offer guests an immersive and memorable experience.

“If the art is not authentic when trying to create an atmosphere from a particular era, then you risk ending up with pastiche, when the intent is to celebrate the craftsmanship and creativity of the originals,” King says.

Lanesborough, London

The Lanesborough in London features an art collection that resembles that of the private residence of a wealthy Londoner.
The Lanesborough in London features an art collection that resembles that of the private residence of a wealthy Londoner.

Similarly, the Lanesborough in London, which reopened last year after an 18-month design overhaul, features original works of art throughout the property, from public areas to guest rooms. The design teams on the project, Cabinet Alberto Pinto and Visto Images, a Paris art consultancy, conceived of an art collection that resembled that of the private residence of a wealthy Londoner, complete with the various types of art that could have been acquired in the 1830s.

“As the Lanesborough was built then as a hospital, we wanted to be faithful to the period and curate artworks that were authentic to the taste and style of the Regency period,” says Alex Toledano, the president of Visto Images.

The 2,000-some artworks, reflecting English taste at the time, are international and were sourced not only from Britain but from France, Italy, Holland, Germany and China. They incorporate works on paper, hand-colored engravings, porcelain and paintings, including a pair of portraits from the 1750s by Sir Joshua Reynolds that hang in the entrance.

Whereas most new hotels favor designs that feel of the moment, Cabinet Alberto Pinto’s approach was to offer an Old English experience. “For so long there have been facsimiles used in hotels, but guests today want and expect more,” says Amr Mandour, the studio’s lead decorator on the project. “There is a broad, intellectual movement toward authenticity in all areas of life, and it’s our job as decorators to respond to that in our designs.”

Modern art in the lobby of the 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, N.C.
Modern art in the lobby of the 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, N.C.

21c Museum Hotels, U.S.

That many upscale hotels have emphasized elaborate design concepts and curated artistic programs as a means to attract culture-hungry travelers is not all that rare in the industry.

One of the pioneering examples of bridging the worlds of art and hospitality is 21c Museum Hotels, a boutique chain based in Louisville, Ky., that opened in 2006 and has properties in four other American cities, each with its own 21st-century art museum with curated exhibits open all day, every day, to the public and to guests.

Le Bristol, Paris

Le Bristol in Paris, known for its classic, 18th-century style with original works collected by the Oetker family, which owns the hotel, intends to draw those who love art but who may not be guests. In collaboration with Galerie Kamel Mennour, Daniel Buren created a pergola for Le Bristol that will be on view in the hotel’s garden through October, and the contemporary artist Hicham Berrada will illuminate the mirror screen in the Bar du Bristol with video installations.

Following that, the hotel will incorporate a series of sculptures in the garden by the Colombian artist Iván Argote, in association with the art exhibition Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain and the Galerie Perrotin.

Integrating the scale of original artwork seen in the Beaumont or the Lanesborough is likely to exceed the budgets of most hoteliers, but those who can tell a story through such design considerations can enhance a guest’s experience.

“Well-curated art collections in hotels, especially the most ambitious, help guests feel the identity of a place,” Toledano says. “They help these properties feel less standardized.”