Original artwork hung in the lobby of a five-star or boutique hotel is nothing new. We’re not even surprised by the occasional masterpiece, thanks to Steve Wynn’s collection of French Impressionist works at the Bellagio. But some hotels take art appreciation to the next level, inviting an artist to complete an original project during a one-year residency. Although they may not actually live at the hotel, resident artists typically keep set hours in the hotel’s studio, where you can watch them work, ask them questions, and maybe even serve as their model. Here are five hotels with artist-in-residence programs.
The Swatch Art Peace Hotel (Shanghai, China)
This historic Shanghai hotel operates on the premise that “art is the real luxury in life.” Every year, it invites up to 18 artists from around the globe to stay for free in exchange for a piece of contemporary art in one of the following areas: photography, music, filmmaking, writing, dancing, painting, or conceptual art. Participants are chosen by a selection committee that includes Swatch Group employees and actor George Clooney, and they can stay for a period of three to six months in the hotel’s apartments. While there, the artists meet to exchange ideas, talk about their work, and prepare meals. Can’t make it to Shanghai to see the works left behind by these artists? You can view their works online in the hotel’s virtual museum.
The Pfister Hotel (Milwaukee, WI)
Opened in 1893, The Pfister Hotel boasts the largest Victorian art collection of its kind in any hotel in the world. You can tour the collection on the first, second, and seventh floors and then venture to the artist studio just off the lobby where you’ll find the hotel’s current artist in residence, Todd Mrozinski, at his easel. Mrozinski, who likes to create works that feature shadow and symbols, is working on a series of eight large oil paintings portraying actual guests in front of the hotel’s windows. (If you visit the hotel, you just might end up as one of his models!) Bonus: The Pfister also has a narrator-in-residence program. Instead of documenting the hotel through art, the narrator (currently Jonathan West) interviews visitors and guests and blogs about them.
Hotel Phillips (Kansas City, MO)
Downtown Kansas City has a vibrant arts community, and at its center is Hotel Phillips. You can ask the front desk to arrange for tours of local galleries or the hotel’s own studio, where the property’s fifth artist in residence, Megan Lou Gallant, takes inspiration from nature to create her sculpted pieces. But, you don’t necessarily need to make arrangements to visit Gallant, though. The sculptor usually leaves her door open and even invites guests to come inside to work with her. Another way to experience art at Hotel Phillips is to stay in the AIR room, a junior suite designed by previous artist Madeline Gallucci. Proceeds benefit Hello Art!, a local arts organization. (Call 877-704-5341 for pricing and availability.)
The Skirvin Hilton (Oklahoma City, OK)
A photographer who stitched images with thread into mosaics and a violin maker who crafted a string quartet kicked off The Skirvin Hilton’s artist-in-residence program. Now in its third year, the program features poet and visual artist Kerri Shadid, who spontaneously composes poems for visitors. The best of these poems will become part of a collection she will give to the hotel at the end of her residency. You can also see her demonstrate marbling and bookbinding in the studio.
Corinthia Hotel London (U.K.)
Art takes a somewhat broader definition at Corinthia Hotel London. After the first year, when artist Noémie Goudal merged Corinthia backdrops with photos of new places (pictured above), the hotel has hosted a team of writers and theatre companies to create an immersive play set in the hotel and three filmmakers to each make a short film at the hotel on “The Power of Sleep.” This year, composer Emily Hall has been charged with writing a brand new opera inspired by the sounds and language of the hotel. A combination of recordings and live performers, the opera will premiere later this month.