Art hotels provide traditional hotel accommodation and amenities, but they also offer something special. They display an interior of creative exhibits, paintings, photos and drawings from a particular artist or style. Some art hotels operate on a single theme, while others may have one for each floor or each particular room. Dining areas or lobbies often work as miniature art galleries in themselves and sculptures may be placed in the lobbies or in the garden.
Whether it is to provide more attractive facilities or to attract a creative clientele appreciative of art culture, art hotels provide a key cultural site where guests can enjoy local art, music and theatrical heritage. Thus these hotels are most likely to be found in major cities with established artistic communities.
Henry Jones Art Hotel
right in the centre of Victoria Dock, Hobart
Built in 1925 on a site that previously held the home of quintessential New York architect Stanford White, Gramercy Park Hotel was much loved by artists, designers and literati who frequented its halls. Robert Lyons originally designed this elegant hotel built across from the lush, private Gramercy Park. Redesigned after 2000 by Julian Schnabel, Gramercy Park Hotel stills enjoys bespoke furnishings in each of the 185 guestrooms, which are richly layered with velvet curtains, leather wing chairs and original art by David Salle, Robert Mapplethorpe and others. This Manhattan hotel has become a full-fledged work of art in its own right.
But you may not have expected an art hotel in Hobart. Settlers arrived in Tasmania in 1804. The settlement grew rapidly, fed by convict labour, thriving whaling and sealing industries. Factories, storehouses and dwellings emerged. But in the 1830s, a severe depression hit the area hard. The whaling industry had collapsed, a new wharf had been constructed across the bay (at what is now Salamanca Place) and the Old Wharf and nearby residential areas were gripped by poverty. Only the brothels and taverns thrived.
But in 1869, businessman George Peacock moved his successful jam making business to newly acquired warehouses on Old Wharf—the best location in Hobart for exporting produce. Henry Jones was not even a teenager when he started his first day of work at George Peacock’s jam factory. After years of long working hours, Henry Jones eventually took over the business, IXL Jams, in 1895.
Over the decades Henry Jones carefully build an international industrial empire with interests in jam, fruit, timber, mining and shipping. There would not have been a kitchen in Australia that did not have IXL jams in the cupboard. As a result, Henry Jones had one of Australia’s most successful businesses. By the time of his death in 1926, he had become the first Tasmanian to be knighted, the biggest private employer in Tasmania, head of the largest private company in Australia and a global exporter of his own product.
Henry Jones Art Hotel, Hobart
dining room (above)
Australia's first dedicated art hotel exhibits 300 original contemporary artworks, outside and within the building. The art work, by emerging and established Tasmanian artists, is exhibited in the lobby, the lounge, Henry's Restaurant, IXL Long Bar, Jam Packed Café and bedrooms. The collection includes original paintings, prints, works on paper, photo media, sculpture and design by Tasmanian artists. Most of the artworks are recorded in a catalogue and are for sale.
Since writing about Hobart’s art hotel, I noted that The Weekend Australian (25/10/2014) reviewed Skwachàys Lodge in Vancouver. Just opened in 2014, this boutique hotel (18 rooms) is Canada’s first Aboriginal arts hotel. Located near Vancouver’s historic Gastown, Skwachàys Lodge is a project run by an housing organisation for First Nations people living in Vancouver from anywhere in Canada. Six diverse artists collaborated with interior designers on the suites e.g a Plains Cree artist from northern Saskatchewan, a Northern Tutchone from the Yukon.
All fixtures incorporate traditional cultural elements. Attention to detail can be seen in the wood-carved feature around each door, designed to resemble the entrance to a longhouse that signifies welcome.
guest bedroom at the
Skwachàys Lodge in Vancouver
For a review of some of the world’s other art hotels in Copenhagen, Toronto, Berlin or San Francisco, see The Guardian Newspaper. Perhaps the most unusual is a Victorian hotel in Devon that has its own contemporary art gallery and a 10-acre sculpture park, displaying over 300 sculptures.