Art hotels, the newest wave of boutique residences, are springing
up all over the world. We've written about quite a few over the last year
or so, and it's clear this is a trend that's gathering momentum. In 2006, with the opening of his Gramercy Park Hotel in New York, Ian Schrager declared: 'It's over for design hotels' (BusinessWeek).
This from the man who invented them. Gramercy Park hailed a new era in hostelry, a bohemian independence of spirit, combining grand design with cutting-edge art.
The resulting hotel is modern art meets Gothic (perhaps even a little Rocky Horror) – and not to everyone's taste. That to me is what makes art hotels so interesting. The response is visceral. You either love them or hate them, and you may only love parts of them. They're boldly creative.
Some rooms are admirable but impossible to sleep in; you admire them for sheer spectacle rather than slumber potential. Others, in true Goldilocks fashion, feel just right – as if they were tailor-made for you. It's the ultimate in boutique living – picking out one room that fits your mood or worldview.
Another recent opening was the 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky – a 91-room hotel with contemporary art in each of its rooms and a large art museum in its grounds.
Spatially, however, it comes across more like a gallery than a hotel, grand and stylish rather than cool and quirky. A sister hotel in Austin, Texas, will follow soon.
Gramercy Park and the 21c are certainly impressive, but it's the smaller strand of this trend that I,
for one, find much more interesting. The small scale art hotel, the converted boutique hotel that showcases local artists, one per room. The art may be hung on the walls, but it's even better when it's slathered all over them – permanent, an intrinsic part of the space.
And there are a growing number of these hotels. Here are some we've covered in Been-Seen… Propeller Island City Lodge, Berlin, (which boasts a flying bed and a prison room) is bewildering in its audacity, fiendishly clever in its geometrical contortions, and really good fun.
Meanwhile in Verona, Italy, the Byblos Art Hotel is Marie Antoinette meets the Jetsons – whimsical, eccentric, and a little bit cutesy.
If you want to feel like you've wandered into a paint palate, try any of these smaller hotels: Hotel Fox in Copenhagen, Denmark; the Hotel des Arts in San Francisco; the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto, Canada; or Reflections Rooms in Bangkok, Thailand.
They're miles apart geographically but very similar in perspective. Though, of course, being art hotels, all the rooms are wildly different.
Other art hotels we like include L'Hotel Particulier Montmartre, a tiny Parisian residence with only five suites, each very distinctive, and the quirky Atelier Sul Mare tucked away in Castel di Tusa, Italy. Two other great hotels, which are both set in sculpture gardens, are HOMA, Yuzi Paradise in China and the Benesse Art Site in Japan. If you can't find a room in any of these hotels that feels like you, it could be you're just a little too picky.