A goodbye to lobby art?

Hotels are embracing contemporary art to give their interiors an edge

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The Independent Online

“Lobby art”, like “lobby music,” has traditionally referred to the kind of blandly conformist, unchallenging and dreary artistic taste most commonly found in hotel foyers and corridors, but is the term still relevant today?

This week, acclaimed hotel group citizenM opened the doors to its first hotel in London where a sharp focus on contemporary art has formed a key part of its distinctive design aesthetic. Situated minutes from the Tate Modern Museum in Southwark, its art works include a specially-commissioned façade installation by Turner-prize nominated Mark Titchner, an eye-catching silk screen print of Andy Warhol by British artist Gavin Turk, a Mario Testino limited edition photograph and a 35 foot psychedelic mural (curled round the back wall of the lobby) by artist collective AVAF. Combined with brightly coloured, iconic designer furniture supplied by Vitra, clusters of hanging lanterns and huge black bookcases filled with books, sculptures and various quirky trinkets, the overall effect is far from featureless.

“Our styling is done to resemble that of a very well-travelled citizen and the things that he or she collects along the way,” explains Robin Chadha (CMO), who oversaw much of the design. He likes to think of the lobby as ‘the living room’ of the hotel – a place where guests can relax, be inspired and live – if only for a couple of days – amongst world-class art. “Our travellers are very multi-cultural. They’re coming from all over the world. They live in big cities and they’ve been exposed to a lot more art than in the past. It’s not that they expect to see art of this calibre, but it is definitely appreciated - art is a luxurious thing.”

citizenM is not the only hotel to embrace contemporary art within its interiors. Both The Gramercy Park Hotel in New York and The Four Seasons hotel group offer visitors the chance to experience “museum-quality art” during a stay.In London, plans are underway to introduce an art’otel in Hoxton, complete with a publicly accessible arts centre and “original art displayed throughout guest rooms and public areas.” Meanwhile, in Penzance, a new Artist Residence Hotel features eight bedrooms, each decorated by a different artist, and a breakfast room that doubles as an art gallery.

Some hotels - aware of the brand-strengthening powers of contemporary art - are even going as far as to employ an art curator to help them make the right artistic choices for their space. “I think it’s a very smart investment,” says Francesca Gavin, art curator for the London-based Soho House brand of private clubs. “Places are now employing music curators to oversee sound or an interior designer to find furniture. If the art is done well, it can really help make a space work – and have a massive effect on the place’s success.”

It’s not just the brand that benefits. For artists, the chance to showcase work in a hotel setting can bring increased opportunities for publicity and sales. Artist Shelley Rae, who has showcased her work in the now-closed Lydmar Hotel in Stockholm explains, “Sometimes a gallery can be a bit intimidating. By showcasing your work in a hotel like the Lydmar, people have time to study the artwork more closely and imagine what it could look like in their own home.”

From the ‘Jo Peel’ room of the Artist Residence Hotel in Penzance to the Testino tucked between bookshelves at citizenM, hotels are helping to make contemporary art more accessible while re-inventing their interiors a place of discovery and inspiration. As more start to embrace this trend and think beyond the bland prints and insipid watercolours of old, ‘lobby art’ may just become the kind of art we all want hanging on our walls.

Emily Jenkinson is interiors writer for mydeco.com, the only online store where you can shop hundreds of independent interiors boutiques from across the world, all in one basket.