01 November 2014

Art hotels in Hobart, Vancouver and New York

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

The first art hotel I ever discussed in this blog was The Hotel Chelsea in New York. The twelve storeys were converted into a hotel in 1905, perfectly located in a centre of the New York art, theatre and music world. But it was not until the 1950s and 1960s that young, creative and avant garde artists took up cheap lodgings here and experimented with modernity, sex, booze and drugs. When they were impoverished, the artists sometimes left works of art in lieu of rent; these art pieces still decorate the hotel today.

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)
lobby (below)

The Henry Jones Art Hotel in Hobart became Australia’s first dedicated art hotel when it opened in 2004, based in the old jam factory . This Hobart factory was perfect, both because of its location beside Victoria Dock, offering views of Mount Wellington and Fisherman's Wharf, and because of the amazing 19th century industrial architecture. The block of sandstone buildings that comprise the Henry Jones maintain the building's classic façade, including the Jam Company signage.

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

There are two ways in which the artists benefit from this Vancouver art hotel. Firstly it is a social enterprise; the Urban Aboriginal Fair Trade Gallery is owned by the Vancouver Native Housing Society. Profits from the hotel and gallery provide the ongoing subsidy for 24 urban Aboriginal live/work studios. Secondly the artists are given studio space at the lodge. There they can produce carvings and other artwork that they can then be sold in the Urban Aboriginal Fair Trade Gallery on the main floor of the lodge.

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.


Joe said...

I hope art hotels are always small, not part of an international chain, have special architectural history. Otherwise what is the point?

Hels said...


I don't know. But imagine there are 550 Hilton Hotels in the world, each with 350 rooms throughout 12 storeys of standard hotel-chain architecture. Local cultural creativity might not be the top priority.

Andrew said...

I wonder if Melbourne's Art Hotels fit into the picture, The Blackman, The Cullen and The Olsen. Ah, there are three more now.

Parnassus said...

Hello Hels, Art hotels seem like a good adaptive reuse for certain old buildings, but I imagine that it takes a special kind of person to run one successfully. The entire hospitality industry and its attendant finances are a mystery to me.

I'm not sure that I would be able to sleep in that room in Vancouver--I imagine that most people would get nightmares from that giant painting inches away from the bed.

Hels said...


Exactly! They are part of the Art Series of boutique city hotels featuring important works by famous Australian artists. Melbourne might be leading the world :)

The Blackman, for example, says "it turns work into play and surrounds guests with Charles Blackman’s poetic, dreamlike artworks". They are correct... the paintings are a delight.

Hels said...


I thought of EXACTLY that when I was looking for an image of the Skwachàys Lodge in Vancouver :)

I suppose an art hotel is more than an ordinary hotel with a few paintings on the wall and a sculpture in the lobby. An art hotel is _itself_ a key cultural site where guests can participate in local art or music. Not an easy task, agreed.

Ann ODyne said...

Great post Hels, and here's my two-penneth:
The Hotel Chelsea in NYC may not have set out to be an art hotel, but had so many tenants unable to pay rent in anything but paintings, the Chelsea became an art store by default. It was home to Melbourne artist Vali Myers before her years in the Italian mountains, to Bretty Whiteley of course, and home to Patti Smith when she lived with Mapplethorpe and worked at The Gotham Bookmart before recording 'Hey Joe'. When I was there in 1990 the stench prevented me from ascending the stairs.
The Cullen in MEL provides guests with art materials to produce their own, should they be inspired. My own favourite Cullen is his portrait of Growler his dog.

Train Man said...

Helen you remember when the wife and I went to Toronto for the family event. We stayed at the Gladstone Art Hotel which shows experimental, alternative art in a 19th century original building. I am not a fan of modern art, but the hotel was super.

Hels said...


good on you for knowing about the Australian connections to the Chelsea Hotel. And thank you for knowing Adam Cullen. I should have remembered he won the Archibald prize in 2000 with a portrait of the lovely David Wenham.

Blogging rocks :)

Hels said...

Train Man

I had a look at the Gladstone's home page and it looks very cool. "From the Art Bar to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Floor Galleries, we’re known as Toronto’s Art Hotel for a good reason. Hosting over 70 exhibitions a year, our popular exhibition spaces located in the heart of the West Queen West “Art and Design District”, will help you bring your most creative visions to life." The long gallery hallways look great.

The Schaller Studio said...

Drawing from the art and cultural overtones of Bendigo, The Schaller Studio is inspired by Mark Schaller’s working studio.

With large edgy communal spaces, rooms filled with original artwork, large scale sculptures and mosaics across the landscaped gardens, guests can fully immerse themselves in the creative process. For a multifaceted art inspired experience, regular art classes, art tours and artisan markets will be on offer at our boutique Bendigo accommodation.

Hels said...

Now I am learning new stuff :) The page says the Schaller Studio is the funky hotel Bendigo lacked to help woo the art-loving crowds. So I am glad Bendigo is attracting the arty crowd, but I cannot tell from the photo if the hotel re-purposed an old, 19th century building.

getdeals said...

the page says about art Hotels in Vancouver , australia and other cities it says about the quality and kind fo art hotels.it told about history and creativity behind the art hotels.

Hels said...


I hope you enjoyed the post. Art hotels are a new concept for many people.

Melinda Barker said...

I love art hotels. On my last vacation I stayed at an art hotel in NY. I stayed at La Maison d'Art that I booked with this site. It was a first time for me to stay in such a place and it was quite a pleasant stay.

Hels said...


Like you, I found my first ever stay in an art hotel was a a very pleasant surprise. And that was the Henry Jones Art Hotel in Hobart.

But it begs the question, doesn't it? Why are art hotels not better known or more extensively advertised?

Vacations and Travel said...

Adelaide now has the Watson Art Hotel. Hotel Hotel in the ACT includes a cinema, library and art gallery. The Larwill in Melbourne displays original works from the late artist David Larwill. The Tryp in Brisbane commissioned murals from acclaimed street artists, each artist working his/her magic on one floor.

Hels said...

Thank you. I wonder what is causing the sudden popularity of small art hotels in Australian capital cities.

Jerusalem Hills daily photo said...

For the Elma Arts Complex Luxury Hotel in Zichron Ya'akov in Israel, see the blog called Jerusalem Hills daily photo.

Vacations and Travel said...

Cape Grace Hotel in Cape Town is the perfect base from which to explore the many art attractions of this beautiful city. The opening of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art later this year will add another highlight to the list of places to visit. Inside the hotel, there is a wonderful collection of antique furniture and artefacts from the Cape area.

Denver's Art Hotel boasts unique, multi-sensory installations and a world-class art collection woven through the entire guest experience. The hotel is an intimate and refined modern architectural gem, situated in the heart of Denver's thriving cultural scene.

Hels said...

ooooooohhh I would love to go to Cape Town. If we go on the Blue Train from Pretoria to Cape Town, all my South African friends recommend spending at least 3 or 4 days at either end.

Get Up & Go said...

Can you please mention Street Art Hotels.

Every street art enthusiasts wants to see as much street art as possible when travelling to a new city, urban art in the bedroom? There are some exceptional urban art hotels everywhere in the world (although most of them are in Australia).

The Cullen brings Melbourne’s laneway culture into their hotel environment. The hotel has specially designed Street Art Suites that allow guests to enjoy magnificent urban art in their hotel room. With additional street art scattered throughout the entire hotel, the Cullen is a holistic street art experience for every enthusiast.

The street artists’ vivacious dispositions, passion and flair for the quirky also reflect the ideology of TRYP Fortitude Valley Hotel in Brisbane. So much more than just graffiti, the boys’ edgy and evocative creations set the tone for Brisbane’s most audacious inner-city haunt.

Get Up & Go
Autumn 2016

Hels said...

Many thanks. I did not think I would enjoy the boys’ edgy and evocative street art creations, but the art on the facade of the TRYP Fortitude Valley stands out!

Joseph said...

The Weekend Australian of 7/4/18 noted that Landscape is the newish in-house restaurant at Hobart’s Henry Jones Art Hotel. It’s a glamorous space, a work of art itself, but the real appeal hangs on the walls. The restaurant is given over to a collection of meticulous landscapes by celebrated colonial painter John Glover. I would love to see those Glovers.

Hels said...


Since Glover took the landscape art as his model, it is perfect that the Landscape Restaurant displays an original Glover, or more. After all, the Tasmanians note that Glover was famous for some of the earliest post-settlement depictions of the Tasmanian landscape.

Hels said...

Andrew and Ann

Did you see the Adelphi Hotel reviewed in the Weekend Australian yesterday (Nov 2018)? Apparently it was a 1930s warehouse in Flinders Lane, but was converted into an Art Deco hotel in the 1980s. Black and white geometric carpets, shaggy armchairs, funky art, colourful textiles and a pop-up live studio. Of course The Adelphi stresses its proximity to thee National Art Gallery :)