Not art for art’s sake: adding apt sense of place in hotel design

The definition of art has come a long way in hotels – from the decorative layer added at the end of a project to where we are now where the barriers between the interior design scheme and the art itself is blurred. To understand the role of art when creating meaningful sense of place, Patrick McCrae, CEO of Artiq, shares his experience and thoughts…

Abstract art piece hanging in restaurant

When seeking to explore local cultures, we usually think of museums or heritage institutions. They tell stories of the past, which is integral to understanding how places came to be. However, it is equally important to learn about current stories and events, and who better tell this than current artistic communities?

Hotels are often key features of the local area, especially in places that experience a high volume of visitors. By showing art made by local artists, collections resonate more with local people and travellers to the area.

A place exemplifying this is Belmond Splendido Mare, a luxury boutique hotel in Portofino, Italy. Once a guesthouse greeting travellers and weary fishermen, it has now bloomed into a hot spot for a discerning clientele looking for a retreat of solace, revival, and bliss.

A simple interior design scheme with soft artwork

Image caption: Living room inside Mattia Aquila for Splendido Mare. | Image credit: Artiq

We worked directly with Belmond and Festen Architecture to curate and commission an art collection comprising over one hundred original paintings, sculptures, and limited edition prints. Designed as a ‘collector’s collection’, the artworks reflect a mid-century aesthetic, complementing the interior design scheme and appealing to Belmond’s noteworthy clientele.

Our focus on promoting local talent and local stories perfectly aligns with Belmond’s appreciation for art that resonates with their locations. This project saw our curatorial team working primarily with emerging to mid-career artists from Italy, highlighting their talent and supporting the local creative economy in Liguria.

A quarter of the collection were commissions from international artists, echoing the cosmopolitanism surrounding the area today. Through careful curation, the story of Portofino emerged: a place shared between the local community and international travellers.

Another excellent example of a property tapping into the local creative community to elevate the experience of staying in their specific location is the recently opened Chateau Denmark, with punk rock interiors by award-winning design studio Taylor Howes.

Bathroom - red - with bold heritage artwork on the walls

Image credit: Mel Yates

At first glance, this might appear the opposite of Splendido Mare, but both brands used the same curatorial approach. Chateau Denmark’s art collection was grounded in research connected to the buildings, their histories, the location of Soho and specifically Denmark Street’s history and cultural identity through the past eras in London.

Denmark Street is London’s music epicentre; the 1960s-70s were its most noteworthy era. One of the more famous tenants taking up residence here were the Sex Pistols, and the Rolling Stones recorded their debut album in the same buildings where Chateau Denmark’s guests now stay.

Focusing on the contemporary sphere with a pool of diverse artists, this collection aimed to capture the DNA of Denmark Street: its past, present and future. The collection pays homage to the British punk movement, capturing voices and alternative perspectives from the LGBTQ+ community and artists of colour. Several included artists are also active in the city’s music and nightlife scene today, another nod to the area’s legacy.

Borrowing from the past to excite contemporary audiences, guests will see artists presented within Chateau Denmark’s collection carrying forward a rebellious punk spirit within their work that confidently speaks of today while paying tribute to the past.

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Main image credit: Artiq