The importance of art in luxury hospitality

From suites casually showcasing original works from legends like Warhol, Hirst, and Picasso to entire hotels designed by world-renowned architects and designers — art has been widely prominent in the luxury hospitality industry long time. Nevertheless, as our world becomes increasingly visual, its role nowadays appears even more relevant than ever before.

Over the years, experiential travel has gained momentum: the new generation of guests, marked by social-media-savvy individuals, seeks eye-catching, aesthetically pleasing venues that create lasting impressions. That is why five-star hotels’ traditional differentiation strategies through superior service and superb hospitality clearly do not suffice: luxury hotel managers need to think creatively, perhaps investing in a handful of iconic statement art and design pieces rather than many small ornamental elements, to attract today’s guests’ trained eyes for details.

But what is it that makes an artsy environment so essential to what people associate with a luxurious stay? As Richard McCready-Hughes, Creative Director of luxury interior design studio Goddard Littlefair suggests: “Sensitive deployment of artwork pieces within a hotel environment enriches the guest’s experience by providing emotional resonance, a sense of individualism and personality”. Great art and design are essential for luxury hotels because they build a way for people to connect.

Here are three ways that leading luxury hotels incorporate art and design in their brand identity, thereby increasing guest satisfaction.

1. Prestigious and historical art collections

Living for a few days with multimillion-dollar artwork — if this doesn’t sound like a luxurious stay! But believe it or not, there are hotels with an inherited and accumulated, museum-worth collection of artworks. While such legacies enormously help hotels to create identity, they add an educational factor that may even captivate a very different type of demographic: people who have no other reason to stay in the hotel. Offering professional, museum-like tours along with their excellent hospitality standards, these hotels directly compete with galleries and museums as the preferred art location.

For example, in Zurich, The Dolder Grand Hotel, constructed in the late 19th century during Europe’s grand hotel boom, features an impressive collection of works by international art legends ranging from Damien Hirst to Salvador Dalí. Already during check-in at the reception, guests are bedazzled with Andy Warhol’s “Big Retrospective Painting”, quite apart from the, among others, Henry Moore and Takashi Murakami sculptures decorating the outdoor terrain. To enhance their artsy experience, guests are provided with an art IPad that guides them through the over 150 art pieces.

Moreover, who would have thought that the largest, often regarded as the most remarkable, private art collection in Europe quietly resides inside a luxury hotel in Rome? Precisely, it is situated in the five-star Waldorf-Astoria resort Rome Cavalieri, in a private park atop Rome’s highest hill, Monte Mario. Its enormous collection mainly takes up 17th and 18th-century art, matching its interior. Two art historian are employed at the hotel and offer guided tours at request. The Cavalieri even possesses one of the nine episodes of “L’Histoire de l’Empereur de Chine”, i.e. The History of the Emperor of China, which other replicas can be seen in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Louvre in Paris, Alte Residenz in Munich, and San Francisco.

2. Collaborations with designers, consultants, and museum

Don’t expect all hoteliers to be born as art collectors or interior designers. Staying up to date with current trends, most of the big names in the luxury hospitality industry collaborate with consultants, designers, and museums to gather a curated and often rotating selection of art and design pieces. Such collaborations often benefit both parties: hotels stand out by offering a more interesting and stimulating guest experience, while artists and designers can boost their image and showcase their talents.

Kelly Wearstler, for example, honoured with international design awards next to various publications, and she recently published Masterclass, has been in charge of the entire design concept of many luxury hotels such as the Four Seasons Anguilla and the Proper Boutique Hotels in Santa Monica, San Francisco, and Malibu. Wearstler’s signature design approach marked by, as written in her biography, “an exploration of materiality, colour, forms and an intuitive juxtaposition of contemporary and vintage, architectural and organic, graphic and instinctual”. Her style is immediately recognizable, making these hotels particularly appealing to design lovers.

Next to an astonishing art collection handpicked by the former director of the National Museum of Art Sune Nordgren, THE THIEF hotel in Oslo closely collaborates with the Astrup Fearnley Museum, borrowing and rotating the art displayed in its common areas and rooms. This strategic partnership features a selection of pieces by established artists like Warhol next to new talents and even digital art. THE THIEF’s ever-changing venues create unique and exciting experiences for guests at each stay.

3. Focus on local art

According to Patrick McCrae, CEO of ARTIQ, one of the UK’s leading art consultancy, “travellers today are looking to immerse themselves in local culture, meet people and learn about the societies they’re visiting. People are increasingly seeking an authentic connection to the places they visit.” Following this tendency, hotels and their designers often focus on interesting local established and emerging artists whose works complement the hotel’s cultural narrative.

For example, the PuXuan Hotel & Spa in Beijing is quite symbolically above the Guardian Arts Centre, which also curated the hotel’s fine selection of regional Chinese contemporary art such as sculptures, paintings, and ceramics. Moreover, Shanghai-based design firm MQ studio embedded cultural and local references within the hotel’s interior: the 116 rooms are embellished with furniture and artisanship by Hermes-owned Chinese lifestyle brand Shang Xia. The rooms even feature art safes to store art pieces purchased by guests during their stay.

All in all, there exist countless examples of excellent integration of art and design within luxury hotels around the world, showing its essential role in hotels’ brand standards and identity creation. Displaying unique and intriguing art that connects to the hotel’s narrative adds to a memorable guest experience, which luxury hotels should strive for.

Sources: (Forbes – The Dolder Grand, Kelly Wearstler – Biography, THE THIEF, Gentleman’s Journal – Hotels with the most amazing art collections, Here Magazine – Rome Cavalieri Hotel, Kaddra Lifestyle – The PuXuan Hotel, Proper Hotel, Artiq, Level Medium – Art in Hotels, 4Hoteliers – Why Is Display of Art In Hotels So Significant)

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