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Luxury Design

Part 47: The quest for originality in art consultancy

730 565 Hamish Kilburn

GTHD

A GUIDE TO HOTEL DESIGN PT 47:
THE QUEST FOR ORIGINALITY IN ART CONSULTANCY

As an international art consultancy, Artelier specialises in curating art for luxury hospitality, residential, yacht and aviation projects. At a time when there is an inexhaustible supply of art online, Artelier explain why organic and thorough research is essential for offering originality in a hotel art collection.

Drawing on their experience in sourcing contemporary art by leading global artists, Artelier’s art consultants reveal what it takes to avoid the pitfalls of the typical luxury aesthetic found online.

Rarely has there been a time when art has been accessible to so many. Whilst at one time art would mainly have been encountered at galleries or fairs, there are now endless online resources that make art readily available for a wide audience within moments. Online search engines and social media have also given emerging artists platforms for sharing their own work, providing them with the opportunity to gain international attention regardless of where they are based. While the democratisation of access to art is a welcome development, it has also brought an influx of lower-quality art online, making it ever more important to be able to discern which artworks are worth the investment.

Image credit: Artelier

Turning solely to online resources when curating art collections for hotels has many potential pitfalls. The online art market has become inundated with artists who are relatively less credible in professional circles; rather than being early-career artists who are growing their recognition, these more amateur artists often lack the experience or training to create truly original work.

While the notion of ‘originality’ is naturally slippery with regards to art – and indeed, most professional artists acknowledge that they find inspiration by building on existing ideas – here the line is much more distinct. Many amateur artists working at this calibre seem to replicate others’ ideas or follow art ‘trends’, yet they create works that are altogether poorer examples, as they lack the finesse of professional artists. This leads to an overcrowded market of exceedingly similar artworks, that do not offer exciting and challenging ideas. Search engine websites therefore often present an ever more diluted mix of the same imagery, reworked to varying degrees of success.

The pitfalls of art sales websites

Without a professional eye, sourcing art from art sales websites such as Artfinder or Saatchi Art may lead designers to overspend on uninspiring art. It is not clear how artists have been vetted on such websites, and which artworks are put up for sale is likewise not thoroughly regulated. The question arises as to whether these websites are truly capable of offering a refined selection of artworks, which have been edited for quality. Instead, art sales websites are geared towards offering as much quantity as possible to the consumer, regardless of artistic merit.

In cases like these, too much choice may well be an issue. While the breadth and diversity of artworks online reflects the spectrum of work being produced today, if truly special artworks are few and far between, unearthing them can be an arduous process. To put this into perspective, only 3-5% of the artists found on art sales websites would stand up to Artelier’s scrutiny when they research new artists to add to their database – and for this reason, Artelier largely use other research methods for discovering new artists to connect with.

Although there are many reputable artists who present interesting and skilful works online, there are nonetheless plenty of examples of artworks that are less expertly executed. Even if the pieces look generally passable on screens, in person they can lack depth and craftsmanship. It is difficult to determine the quality of the execution online without the practice that an art specialist has at examining works. Unfortunately, this can lead to severe disappoint for the buyer once they receive what is clearly the correct work, but in much poorer quality than they were expecting. As a result, rather than making use of art’s potential to bring together a design scheme and add a layer of sophistication, generic artworks can undermine the quality of the design.

Another concerning aspect is that the price of artworks on art sales websites are often self-evaluated, and so determined by artists themselves; this often leads to ludicrously overpriced pieces flooding the websites. This can be shockingly observed when choosing to filter the search engines from high-to-low price, where too often many of the most expensive artworks are generic in style and by undistinguished artists. These prices are outside of the usual art market forces – in more traditional sales contexts, artworks would be evaluated by way of complex factors, such as their provenance, the artist’s background, and the artistic merit of the piece. The practice of being able to set prices at many thousands of pounds for a work by an unknown artist may leave these websites susceptible to opportunists. Some people may take advantage, seeking to sell a piece to an unsuspecting consumer who believes the price tag would reflect the skill and reputation of the artist. Without the market knowledge and trained eye of art specialists, it is easy to be led to believe an artwork is worth its price.

Pinterest and the dilution of original ideas

The explosion of available visual media through platforms like Pinterest and Instagram has made creative ideas disperse rapidly. Yet, the over-reliance of many art consultants on these platforms for inspiration has also led to a staleness of aesthetic, and a tendency to stick to art ‘trends’. Artists themselves often look to online media to develop their ideas, causing many to simply create versions of generic styles, and for the presence of true originality to become ever more diluted.

Image credit: Artelier

These search engines are often the primary resources for less experienced consultants, who may lack the capability of finding artists from more organic sources – such as being rooted in arts communities and growing networks over time – and the experience to spot potential at new shows and fairs. The overall effect of this approach is a trapped repertoire of art being sourced for luxury commercial design. As a result, the general predictability in the art does not fit with the intentions of cutting-edge interior designers, who are seeking to break new ground.

It goes without saying that art which is characteristically similar to its counterparts will fall not even close to the aesthetic criteria of a sophisticated and discerning hotel guest. Curating art for hotels therefore demands responding to the client’s brief in a surprising way, which requires thorough, in-depth research that is amassed over time.

Interpreting a theme in a visually interesting way takes a breadth of knowledge and creative thinking, in order to form subtle connections that go beyond design trends. While Pinterest presents many excellent examples of both under-the-radar talent and established artists, it cannot be the principal research method, as it simply takes more to fulfil the expectations of a luxury client.

Organically evolving a quality database

Discovering artists from the ground up gathers a more diverse range of artworks, and represents the true spectrum of ideas and innovative uses of materials in global contemporary art. Artelier’s research methods are guided by this attitude, and so they seek to become embedded in international artist communities and establish direct connections with artists and galleries. As well as undergoing in-depth research, they are regularly approached by artists themselves, and similarly galleries reach out if they feel an artist they represent especially suits Artelier.

These connections have been established through 20 years’ worth of experience in the industry, allowing Artelier continue to grow a strong repertoire of associated artists. Artelier’s database currently includes 10,000 artists who have been individually researched by Artelier’s team, maintaining the highest of standards through an acute instinct for quality and a wealth of art market expertise.

Image credit: Artelier

Through this organic research method, Artelier prioritise artists who demonstrate an ingenuity of thought, and are true masters of their mediums. Rather than being driven by popular trends, an art specialist’s trained eye is capable of recognising genuine talent. This allows Artelier to be ahead of the curve in terms of proposing stimulating and impressive artworks, rather than being limited to following the online trend of the moment.

When clients approach Artelier with a particular brief or theme in mind, they therefore respond to the hotel client’s concepts with artworks that are truly original, even if the client’s concept is itself inspired by a trend. By offering high-quality artists who are capable of creating artworks that are tailored to the hotel’s context, Artelier ensures the longevity of the stylistic choices and make artworks a worthwhile investment. Such artworks are not typically encountered on online art search engines, and for this reason Artelier chooses not to rely on them as a major resource for research.

A complex thematic approach

Through experience, Artelier understands that truly innovative ideas need to be developed from internal, rather than external, influences. At the beginning of a project, their approach is therefore to think like an artist – looking for subtleties within artistic themes, and seeking to unearth complex connections. The process of developing a thematic response to a project brief becomes centred around invention, rather than re-creating versions of what already exists. Since Artelier’s approach involves internally generating ideas for newly commissioned artworks, the outcome is something completely fresh – this brings the critical element of the unexpected to hotel design.

When exploring potential themes for a hotel art collection, it is necessary to root the artworks in their context: artworks must speak to the unique culture of the area, reflect the ethos of the hotel brand, and create an air of luxury which exceeds the expectations of high-end travellers. These key considerations speak to the core of many hotel project briefs. In a recently completed luxury hotel development in Bahrain, for example, Artelier was asked to curate a portfolio of art that related to local history, and referenced the sense of a meeting point between cultures and communities.

After extensive research into the exceptional aspects of Bahrain’s history and geography, Artelier identified a narrative between several interrelated themes. These centred around concepts of navigation, archaeology of the area, local ancient crafts, and the natural wonders of the nearby sea. Together, these themes formed a coherent basis for the proposed art collection; Artelier could then begin to refer to their database, and contemplate how the themes can be reflected in specific artworks.

Image credit: Artelier

‘Ready-made’ art vs. nurturing creativity

The appeal of shopping for and finding an artwork that is readily available, much like a product, has led to the popularity of sourcing ‘ready-made’ artworks for hotel design projects. The trap of sourcing artworks in this way, however, is that these pieces will always be limited to what has already been done – once these works are out there, regardless of how novel the idea may have been originally, they will be copied and popularised.

For the initial stages of a project, there are advantages in looking at ready-made artworks – often designers benefit from a visual hook they can use to assemble a mood board, and the wealth of imagery online is a perfect, quick tool for this. While the artworks at this stage would be interesting enough, inevitably there will be a sense of the familiar about them. Without an insight into the art market, it is difficult to spot an artist who is doing something truly innovative and leading trends.

For Artelier, the process behind sourcing artworks is inherently creative, as they continuously build upon initial concepts, and foster creative thought through collaboration with artists. Once artists have been selected for a project, Artelier closely works with them to develop existing concepts; the artists’ creative input and intimate knowledge of their materials expand initial ideas into something that has not been done before. This collaborative process encourages the risk-taking and experimental attitude that feeds creative work. As newly commissioned artworks are created specifically for a given hotel project, Artelier are able to develop something utterly unique, in its truest sense: tailor-made, freshly created, and one-of-a-kind.

For these new art commissions, Artelier often collaborates with emerging artists who they discover through a variety of sources. Artelier specialises in talent-spotting artists who have the potential to work on high-profile commissions, but need the support of someone who has experience with delivering art to luxury clients in a variety of contexts. In this way, genuine, professional artists have their work nurtured, and their creativity given space to grow – Artelier understand the difference that a substantial commission can make to a deserving, but relatively under-the-radar, artist. If this talent is utilised, however, this gives the best opportunity for boundary-pushing ideas.

The longevity of innovative art

Every innovative idea will, inevitably, make it to online art search-engines and social media platforms; industry professionals will begin to take note, and use these novel concepts for their inspiration. However, by continuing to approach artistic research with a commitment to talent-spotting and fostering the growth of new ideas, Artelier maintains a pioneering vision that enables them to always stay ahead of the curve.

Artelier is one of the brands that has taken advantage of our Industry Support Package. To keep up to date with supplier news, click here. And, if you are interested in also benefitting from this  three-month editorial package, please email Katy Phillips by clicking here.

Main image credit: Artelier

Part 40: How to design luxury accommodation in pub hotels

730 565 Hamish Kilburn

GTHD

A GUIDE TO HOTEL DESIGN PT 40:
HOW TO DESIGN LUXURY ACCOMMODATION IN PUB HOTELS

Following a rise in smaller and boutique design projects emerging on the hotel design scene, interior designer Sarah Ward offers tips and tricks for designing bespoke luxury accommodation in pubs…

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is glad that pubs have transformed from dark smoky dens into welcoming meeting places for everyone – serving fantastic food, and often with a few luxury rooms to stay in, too.

For weekend mini-breaks, a pub hotel can offer the most characterful place to stay in a rural village. I’m thinking of somewhere where walks finish with a pint or a glass of good wine beside a roaring fire.

The appeal of a pub over a hotel is often friendliness. For single travellers they can be more tempting than a corporate-style hotel, even if it means a little extra travel. The likelihood is that a pub will attract locals as well as travellers, signalling a convivial atmosphere.

My top tips for designing luxury accommodation in pubs aren’t that different from what I’d suggest in a hotel. Sometimes the only distinction between the two is the atmosphere. What every pub needs is an element of cosiness and comfort. The best pub accommodation is warm, comfortable and homely with a dash of luxury: great toiletries, top-quality beds and bedding, some special wool-covered cushions, for example. As Coco Chanel said, ‘Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.’ Pub accommodation should never be soulless and should always offer a hospitable atmosphere.

Here are a few key points for designing luxury accommodation in pub hotels.

Continuity– The style of the whole pub should be harmonious. Pub hotel design never works when it’s obvious that all the attention has gone into creating a cosy eating and drinking area, with the rooms clearly an afterthought with basic furniture, fixtures and linens. Both communal and sleeping areas need to feel part of a whole, with themes carried through. Though overly themed pubs are a no-no – you don’t want a too-often repeated fabric, for example. The design has to be subtle, with a similar colour palette throughout.

Image credit: Interiors by Sarah Ward

Family feel– Many pubs are traditionally family-run businesses. It’s the friendly atmosphere of being in a homely environment that should be brought to the fore when decorating a pub. And that should be created even if it isn’t family-run. For the rooms, this means adding a few individual touches. Pub accommodation shouldn’t all be identical. Interesting materials, cushions, rugs, and lamps come to mind, as well as the odd attractive ornament, or books on a bookshelf. But don’t go for a cluttered look: it’s too Marmite – some love it, many don’t, and it’s hard to get right. That’s where a good interior designer can really add value. We have contacts and connections all over the industry, and can source high-quality interesting bespoke pieces for projects, from artworks to armchairs. We can arrange things in the best way so that there’s still a feeling of space and flow in each area.

Original features– Lovely old pubs often have a wealth of original features, from fireplaces to wonky exposed beams and braces. Don’t cover these up. People want an authentic feel. It’s good to integrate some of the old features, referencing them in your theme. So, an old station pub should have pieces relevant to its original use – a station clock, perhaps, or artwork made from old timetables or posters. Again, a good interior designer will help make sure this works and isn’t kitsch. And for original features that you do want to cover – Victorian plumbing pipes, for example – then an interior design specialist will offer solutions, maybe boxing them in in a way that creates a storage solution.

Bedding– Crisp sheets are a must. And go for comfortable beds that are as large as the room allows. I would recommend a selection of cushions and a choice of soft pillows, and maybe a luxury throw in a contrasting colour to add interest. If the pub doesn’t have a turn-down service as a hotel would, then make sure there’s somewhere for guests to stash bed cushions at night.

Storage– Storage can often be an issue in pub rooms, some of which can be small if you’re working with an old building. If you’re having to create somewhere for guests to place and hang clothes or coats, an interior designer will be able to design something that fits cleverly into a small space. This is better than just offering hooks with hangers.

Materials– Go as luxury and as cosy as your budget affords. I associate British pubs with winter cosiness and rural bliss, and therefore I’d use natural wools and a palette of colours that matches the great outdoors. These are warm earthy tones, against a fairly neutral base. I’d include a comfortable and stylish chair in an attractive material in a pub hotel room. I’d always use heavy curtains and make sure they black out all the light, too.

Sustainability– Make sure you’re offering good quality toiletries in recyclable materials. Also, the better the quality the better the sustainability with things like fabrics. Consumers are concerned about the planet, and you need to show in your offering (food and accommodation) that you are, too. Use local products from small producers if possible. This always adds a welcome touch to a room, and shows the owners have thought about what they’re doing. No-one wants little capsules of milk with their coffee, for example – so offering fresh in a pretty jug (or mini flask) is always better. Likewise, a packet of generic shortbread is boring, but a handmade biscuit is delicious and special. The same goes for a cushion, or a piece of art. According to a 2019 survey by Taxi2Airport, 76% of holidaymakers want hotels to do more to be greener. So, inform your guests about green credentials, whether that’s using eco-friendly cleaning materials or not using single-use plastics.

Bathrooms– Bathrooms don’t necessarily need to be totally luxe in a pub – but make sure the basics are covered: good lighting and mirrors, soft towels with somewhere to hang them, and a heated towel rail if possible. Everyone loves a roll-top bath, and pub-hotels suit them well, often with a Victorian-style feel. Local toiletries, as mentioned in the sustainability section, are always a good addition. Go for large, refillable luxury shampoos, conditioners and soaps. They hit the eco-button and there are lots of great ones available now. Even in a bathroom, bespoke pieces, such as mirrors, soap dishes and glasses to put your toothbrush in can make the difference between dull and stylish.

Noise– Noise can be a problem in pubs. Spend money on good insulation, glazing, and close-fitting doors to aid sound-proofing. If you have wooden floorboards, you need a large thick rug to muffle sound.

Welcome– As we all know, as well as a lovely environment and good food and accommodation, it’s people who make pubs. Make sure all staff are well trained, not just in serving at the bar, but in customer service for overnight guests, too.

Sarah Ward – Interiors by Sarah Ward www.interiorsbysarahward.com