An insight into fine and decorative art with Elizabeth Weiner
The importance of art in a hotel is absolutely vital – it brings the design to life, adding branding and character to the property. But how does one determine what pieces to choose and what are the trends? Renowned art curator, Elizabeth Weiner, shares her years of experience in the industry with SPACE…
What do the trends within hotel art evolve around?
The trends for creating a ‘wow!’ collection start with the story line and the common goals for the collection, which should be established early in the project.
All aspects are considered from the initial conversations with ownership, the interior designer and the architect, in order to create a meaningful collection. It also involves researching the best artworks for the given space; scaling the art within the space and processing the developments that occur when artworks are located. Collaborating with the artists and framers on custom designed site-specific pieces, and the actual installation are also taken into account. Each stage (and there are dozens more) has a variety of issues and elements to it that need to be addressed with clear and definitive solutions. Each stage can topple the other – so it’s important to regard each with great diligence.
Ultimately, it’s necessary that the collections are intelligent, authentic, comprehensive, inspirational and timeless.
The art collection must seamlessly compliment the interiors, the architecture and the personality of the property. After all, it provides the guests a sense of place, space and refinement – all while paying homage to the cultural aspects of the location. Done correctly, the results transpose a huge memory onto the guests and one that hotel owners need to take seriously.
Recent trends indicate that hotels are aiming to create ‘art personalities’ that will brand their image and sense of modern luxury. Through the art collections, hotels are creating memorable experiences that guests want to tell their friends about and want to return to. In essence, the art collections are defining the hotels identification. The collections create the hotel’s ‘vibe’ defining the feeling you get when you walk into a space that lets you know you’ve arrived, that you’ve entered a special place. Similar to a club, fraternity, sorority where other globe- trotters are sleeping and where all expect lavish thought provoking art collections.
Luxury travellers want to feel that they’re staying in a noteworthy place where a unique cultural experience has been created just for them.
My sophisticated taste and approach allow me to curate beautifully appointed collections that are elegant, meaningful and culturally classic for both contemporary and historically important properties.
What is the visual theme of the hotel?
Visual themes vary from property to property. None are ever the same. I like this aspect of creating international at collections. Searching for the just the right artwork or right artefact to be placed into my properties has become a life-long journey. If I don’t utilise it now, I know I’ll find a home for it eventually.
The visual themes of a hotel are established during the planning stages when the goals for the hotel are revealed.
There are a myriad of considerations. For instance, how many star ratings will the property have? Will the property be a resort or an urban hotel? Is it stand-alone or mixed-use? Is the property geared for families or business travellers? Who are the guests? What are the guests’ expectations? Once these parameters have been established, the art curator can start to consider the goals and design narrative for the art collection.
Crucially, the artworks need to follow the design theme of the property and include a wide variety of art styles and mediums, allowing for multiple textures and layering. By that I mean that the collection should use local and international artists alongside renowned and emerging artists who create prints, paintings, photographs, tapestries, sculptures, ceramics, digital and video art, amongst other mediums.
Properly collected and accurately appointed, these artistic elements will give the space an interesting layered and textural lusciousness that’s desirable. The proper blend of different styles and mediums strategically placed is a powerful tool. The end result must be harmonious with the surroundings.
Do you think colours can be influenced by trends within art?
There have always been colour and design trends throughout the ages. More importantly is that there is a balance and harmony between the colours and the design. Integrating the two while telling an art story from the entrance to the exit is a true challenge that requires intuition and experience.
Balancing the luxurious with the practical is a challenge my team and I are masters of conquering. We deliver unique intellectual visual stories to our guests through research, knowledge and instinct. The colours are just one of the elements we consider. My collections are not just colour-based, rather they’re also content, medium and design based. There is a common denominator between these elements – but a truly prolific collection has many more layers to consider in addition to content and colour.
Colour trends should not rule or determine the art collection. My collections are timeless and therefore they will transcend momentary colour trends.
Curating meaningful art collections for the hospitality industry has nothing to do with matching the sofas or rugs.
Is it difficult to work with hotels when curating art within them?
I have been fortunate to work with many discerning hotel owners who have a true respect for art. Most of them have substantial private art collections, therefore our source of reference when referring to the artworks for their hotels is compatible. Each owner has a unique art collecting technique and aesthetic. By listening concretely and abstractly and truly understanding their artistic preferences I am able to better envision the collection for their hotel. The other aspect for determining the ‘art collection puzzle’ is supplied by the designer and the architect.
In addition I have collaborated with some of the most brilliant designers, architects and artists in the world including IM Pei, Sir Norman Foster, Richard Meier, Kevin Roche, John Burgee, Frank Stella, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein amongst others. Their luminous input, spirit and guidance along with my architectural training has shaped my abilities to create memorable personality-driven hotel art experiences.
I am confident in my instincts and the experiences that I have delivered to my audiences over the past 30+ years through each hotel project.
I strive for my collections to connect with the audiences, transform and engage them. My goal is to bring art collections to the public via hotels and invoke a full range of emotional reactions.
What are some of the common pitfalls when curating art in hotels?
Common pitfall number one is timing! Too frequently the art curator-designers are brought onto the project too late. I am convinced it’s of utmost importance that the art curator-designer develops the locations and scale of the artworks in the primary public locations, guestrooms and suites before the lighting schematics have been finalised.
The art curator should be an integral member of the initial design schematics stage along with the interior and architectural team. They must get involved at the same time as the lighting consultant in order to get the maximum mileage from the art collection and mitigate costly change orders. If the artworks are not located, scaled and defined when the lighting is determined, there’s a missed opportunity to properly light them. Why hang artworks without good lighting? It’s counter-productive and inefficient.
Another pitfall is the scale and quantity of the artworks. As a trained architect, I can effectively read a floor plan and quickly envision the scale and quantity of the required artworks. I intuitively process the artistic flow of the space saving the project time and money on reselections.
Artworks don’t need to fill every wall. Rather there needs to be quiet moments (no art moments), modest art moments and occasional WOW-art moments. The collection should have a visual rhythm – which is created by scale, details, quantity and subject matter – so that it can enliven the imagination of the viewer. The scale of the artworks needs to be carefully considered so the collection has a visual rhythm. Too frequently the scale and quantity of the artworks are not reviewed in the initial planning stages resulting in missed artistic opportunities and sometimes an abundance of furniture to compensate.
Many hotel properties use standard dimensions for art pieces, such as scaling the artwork to be shorter than the consoles – never selecting works larger than the area rugs, etc. That’s wonderful for some locations, but should not be a rule of thumb for all locations. Without the major accent pieces – the large impressive pieces – you are missing out. Wow art moments don’t have to cost millions of dollars, but they need to be carefully vetted and spot on, and by that I mean that they need to be accountable on many levels.
Do you feel like contemporary hotels provide more scope for creativity?
Each hotel, no matter what style, country, or the number of hotel star ratings, has unlimited possibilities to create art collections that are innovative and inspiring. Each has the opportunity to be site-specific and prolific. Historical hotels and resorts have a unique possibility to tell their artistic story in a more narrative tone, thus allowing them by nature of their heritage to be uniquely original. They can bring history to life for their guests. Where else can you sleep in an historic building that’s linked to the past and depicted through an art collection?
I believe that all hotels, regardless of their style have endless potential to be innovative. It’s up to the professionals they engage and that team’s ability to create, select, edit and combine their visions. It is the marriage of these resources that allows for the creation of a productive collection. This philosophy applies to all hotel art collections, not just contemporary ones.
Like Banksy once said: “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable”. The tension between the two is desirable.