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Hotel art: one way to stand out

Art is the new currency for hoteliers wanting to stand out from the crowd, says Amanda Morison
Art that's saying something at the Hotel Fox, Copenhagen

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Where there's art, there's often also publicity

A huge in-lobby screen is filled with images of a woman bouncing on a bed. She's wearing a T-shirt and pair of pants, you can't see her head and the bed is made up with a simple white duvet. Her silent boings are at once hypnotic and exhausting. 

Is she road-testing the room? Couldn't get into the hotel gym? In fact, she's a piece of video art created by Ryan Gander, one of 45 permanent works in the Andaz Amsterdam's collection chosen by the hotel's designer and part-owner Marcel Wanders. 

Named the "Lady Gaga of the hotel world" by the New York Times, Wanders is behind Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht's wacky but thoughtful design. CEO Mark Hoplamazian is keen to stress the group's commitment to art, which is "important and represents what our chain is about. We aren't afraid to be provocative." 

Hoteliers all agree that 'the sleeping bit' is still the main priority, but art is where many chains are investing their cash in order to stand out. The PPHE chain has built its Art'otel brand on a commitment to contemporary art, marketing each of its properties as much as a gallery as a hotel. And with the value of art remaining stable over the last few turbulent years, it's no surprise that one industry insider reckons "a decent portfolio of art is as good a way as any of keeping equity prudently tied up."

For Kit Kemp, co-owner and designer of the boutique Firmdale Hotels chain, art is a focal point. "I'm always surprised by how much our guests are informed," she says. "Artwork links the hotel and allows the guest to enjoy art in a decorative setting rather than the impersonal surroundings of a gallery." 

High-end guests are surrounded by contemporary art at home, so expect something as good or better in the hotels they frequent. A common theme is supporting local and/or up and coming artists. Dakis Joannou's Yes! Hotels gave architecture graduates from the University of Thessaly a leg-up by commissioning aspects of Yes! Hotels interiors "to create the sensation of living and breathing in a major art installation."

And where there's art, there's often publicity. In Copenhagen, Volkswagen invited 21 artists to redesign the Hotel Fox to celebrate the launch of the VW Fox. The result is an eclectic, but comfortable, mix of Japanese cartoons and fairy tales. Rooms start at around £89 a night, putting unique art within the reach of most pockets. 

Inviting artists to create a room is standard practice in Bohemian cities from Berlin to Brighton — a hotel gets a free makeover, the artist a showcase. Other publicity stunts aren't designed to last beyond their creation. At The Standard in Miami curator Neville Wakefield staged an event called 'The Nude as Muse' sponsored by Playboy. Artists including Terence Koh and Vanessa Beecroft painted ten 'living paintings' for the day. 

If you want to get in on the act yourself, book a night at Stockholm's Clarion Hotel. If you submit a piece of original art, you'll stay for free. Even a scribble will do. "Who are we to be judgmental about art?" says the marketing manager. Which is what I tried to tell myself when scrutinising Ryan Gander's installation at the Andaz Amsterdam. I still haven't worked out what it's trying to say, but the truth is the bed does look very comfortable. 

From five-star palaces to roadside motels, travel writer Amanda Morison has reviewed hundreds of hotels around the world in her 15-year career.

Amanda Morison

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