On Display

Taking hotel art to a whole new level
By Nora Zelevansky

The Conrad New York lobby—a perfect backdrop for the massive patterns of Sol LeWitt's Loopy Doopy (Blue and Purple).

On Display

"When you're looking at a piece of art, it's like looking at your dreams: There are so many layers and possibilities," explains Patricia Isis, Ph.D., a clinical art therapist in Miami. "Artwork has the capacity to heal, to inspire, to transform, to engage. It's really very powerful."

That's why Conrad Hotels & Resorts is all about changing your view of hotel art and how you engage with it. The art collections found at Conrad New York, Conrad Tokyo, and Conrad Indianapolis are all examples of how Conrad is prioritizing collections and exhibitions that encourage creativity, while projecting each location's distinct local culture. These three hotels have woven fine art (from Picasso to Koons) into an on-site sightseeing experience, offering guests the rare opportunity to live amidst some of the world's most exciting masterpieces—even if only for a few days.

Conrad New York, in downtown Manhattan, has more than 2,000 works on display, including in-your-face pieces by renowned artists like Frank Stella, Julian Schnabel, and Jeff Koons. Even guest rooms showcase high-edition prints by hot contemporary artists like Mary Heilman and Elizabeth Peyton (known for her renderings of iconic celebrities—in this case Princes William and Harry, and John F. Kennedy Jr.).

The hotel, open since March 2012 and awarded a LEED Gold certification this year, inherited a vast collection compiled by the Public Art Fund. Of those works, Sol LeWitt's bold 100 ́ x 80 ́ mural Loopy Doopy (Blue and Purple) (1999) pulls focus immediately upon arrival, with its mesmerizing combination of undulating lines and vibrant colors.

The one work commissioned for this new hotel was Pat Steir's mural Topsy Turvy (2012), located on the second floor outside the Gallery Ballroom and best viewed from the top of the grand staircase. Steir's mural mirrors LeWitt's with ribbons of paint, but the lines are more haphazard. "You have to think about creating a story [with the collection]," says Elizabeth Gould Vales, president of Art Collections Management, who helped reconsider the existing collection for the new space. Because all of the pieces are tied together, viewing the art becomes an immersive experience for guests.

Nobuyuki Tanaka's Purification I sculpture (left) and Toko Shinoda's For Thee painting (below) in Conrad Tokyo's lobby.

Taking hotel art to a whole new level
By Nora Zelevansky

Nobuyuki Tanaka's Purification I sculpture (above) and Toko Shinoda's For Thee painting (below) in Conrad Tokyo's lobby.

Very little is lost in translation at the award-winning Conrad Tokyo, where guests are welcomed into the lobby by Japanese artist Nobuyuki Tanaka's distinctive red sculpture, Purification I (2005). The large-scale, flower-inspired lacquer piece is at once arresting and peaceful. It toys with notions of spirituality, represented by a circle of almost celestial lights fashioned above like a halo. The beauty of the piece helps set a tone of Asia-tinged serenity for guests strolling toward the reception desk.

Tanaka's piece was commissioned specifically for the space, as were works by 25 other notable Japanese artists. Their shared mission was to mirror the juxtaposition that characterizes Tokyo itself: They integrate ancient Japanese culture with contemporary, high-tech style—and their own perspective. "I hope the artworks communicate with our guests on an emotional level," says Kumi Murai, general manager of the design and art division at TAK Property, who oversaw the collection's commission.

Another famed artist, Toko Shinoda, created a bold lobby piece, For Thee (2005), on traditional Japanese paper using Sumi brush technique to layer red ink. "It used to be very rare for hotels in Japan to have a collection of contemporary art," says Murai. "Conrad is a pioneer."

Worship, by local artist Constance Edwards Scopelitis (below), and Russell Young's John Lennon and Yoko Ono (above) are on exhibit at Conrad Indianapolis.

With its vibrant exhibition program, Conrad Indianapolis is part of the movement to elevate the city to an art destination. In summer 2011, an art dealer at ModernMasters Fine Art, Rhonda Long-Sharp, became the hotel's official partner. Now the hotel boasts a fine art experience: At check-in, guests are directed to a dozen in-house "art ambassadors," staff members trained to offer current exhibition details. Self-guided tours are available using QR codes for each work, which can be scanned with a smartphone.

Other art initiatives at the hotel include the recently renovated gallery suite, which is adorned with artwork by Warhol, Dalí, and Miró. Conrad Indianapolis's second floor hosts three or four featured shows at a time and artworks for sale by up-and-coming regional artists. But most notable are the lobby exhibits, which have included Mimosas With Marilyn, A Toast to Pop Art, and Picasso Prints (1905–1968).

Artist Russell Young's ongoing show, A Working Class Hero Is Something to Be (through mid-April 2013), revolves around a series of 10 diamond dust portraits—an almost photographic effect achieved when crystal is pressed into enamel—based on John Lennon's first solo album post-Beatles. One image of Lennon embracing Yoko Ono—John Lennon and Yoko Ono (2010)—is especially powerful.

The fine art program has been such a success that a permanent Long-Sharp gallery opened at Conrad Indianapolis in November 2012. "We're making a statement about our city, and Conrad Indianapolis is the perfect partner," asserts Long-Sharp. "They're about having an experience, and art is an integral part of that."

Worship, by local artist Constance Edwards Scopelitis (above), and Russell Young's John Lennon and Yoko Ono (left) are on exhibit at Conrad Indianapolis.

Conrad Centennial Singapore’s lobby features artist Rafael Barrios’s Turbulence sculpture.