Opinion | The 5-star hotels with the best art collections: Dali, Botero and Murakami thrown in for the price of a night’s stay, or African contemporary art if you prefer

The Peninsula Hotels chain is a fan of the latter.

A rendering of Kingsley Ng’s Esmerelda installation on the facade of The Peninsula Hong Kong. Photo: Handout

Last week, the five-star brand announced the return of its “Art in Resonance” programme – originally introduced in 2019 – through which artwork is commissioned and sent travelling around the world, to the group’s hotels.

From now until May, visitors to the Hong Kong Pen will be able to view new work by Lachlan Turczan – an American artist who works with water, light and sound – along with pieces from the group’s collection by Elise Morin and Saya Woolfalk that have been further developed for this exhibition.

Even passers-by will get a glimpse of interdisciplinary artist Kingsley Ng Siu-king’s new work: a kinetic installation named Esmeralda that hovers over the hotel’s facade.

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The Peninsula describes the “Art in Resonance” programme as “offering guests deeply immersive experiences in its hotels’ respective destination cities”.

“At its root, the commission-based art programme is designed to support the cultural ecosystem by providing emerging artists with the funding, curatorial support and logistical capabilities that allow them to produce significant new public artworks,” it adds.

Which all sounds promising.

The Benesse House Museum in Naoshima, Japan, is a hotel noted for its art. Photo: Handout

For the artist, the benefit to having your work commissioned or displayed even by those hotels that don’t have such lofty ideals are clear.

“You hope as many people as possible see your work,” says Tony Blackmore, a London-based artist who lived in Hong Kong in the 1990s and has had his work displayed in the St Regis Venice and Grosvenor Hotel, London.

“When a hotel commissions your artwork – whether for their foyer or for their guestrooms – you’re guaranteed a constant footfall. This always leads to more opportunity, whether that’s somewhere else wanting to exhibit your work or in direct sales.”

So where should a globe-trotting art buff head to enjoy the finest in-house collections?

Like beauty, the value of art is in the eye of the beholder, so it’s impossible to say which of the world’s hotels-cum-galleries has the “best” collection, but that doesn’t stop publications aimed at the artistically inclined attempting to rank them – or Destinations Known from attempting to rank the rankings.

Hotel Éclat Beijing has more than 100 artworks on display, including original sculptures and paintings by Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, Fan Xiaoyan, Liu Ruowang, Gao Xiaowu, Shen Jingdong and Chen Wenling. Photo: Handout

So we took a look at recent art-themed hotels lists from four specialist titles: Wallpaper, ARTnews, Condé Nast Traveler and Larry’s List, which provides research for art collectors.

The lists varied a lot between publications, as you might expect, but two properties each made it onto three of the four lists; one in Europe and one in Africa (more on which later).

And Asian hotels were fairly well represented, Beijing’s Hotel Éclat placing on both the ARTnews and Larry’s List rundowns.

“Hotel Éclat Beijing boasts an incredible collection of over 100 artworks throughout its guestrooms and public areas, including original sculptures and paintings from legendary artists like Salvador Dali, Pierre Matter, Zhang Guoliang, Chen Wen Ling, Andy Warhol, Gao Xiao Wu, Zou Liang,” says Larry.

Condé Nast likes the look of another hotel in the Chinese capital, the Chao Hotel Sanlitun, mainly for the minimalist property’s “soaring 30,000-square-foot art center on-site, dedicated to a year-round avant-garde cultural programme” and its “high-end art printmaking studios with workshops on etching, silkscreen and woodcutting”.

Indian artist’s Bharti Kher’s elephant sculpture The Skin Speaks A Language Not Its Own in the lobby of the Rosewood Hong Kong hotel. Photo: Handout

Larry’s List gives the Rosewood Hong Kong a mention, impressed by its sculpture of a life-size elephant by Indian artist Bharti Kher, abstract paintings by American Joe Bradley and its Damien Hirst-decorated Butterfly Brasserie.

Japanese hotels fare well, with Kai Sengokuhara, the first art-focused ryokan; Benesse House Museum, Naoshima, ground zero for the Setouchi Triennale; and Node, Kyoto (highlights: work by Barry McGee, Robin Williams and Eikoh Hosoe), all mentioned once.

The Siam, in Bangkok, Thailand, and Paradise City, Incheon, South Korea, are also given a single nod.

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The worldwide members of the Two Mentions in this Random Sample Club are, in no particular order: Ellerman House, Cape Town, South Africa; Domaine des Etangs, Massignac, France; Minos Beach Art Hotel, Crete; Byblos Art Hotel Villa Amistà, San Pietro in Cariano, Italy; and the White Elephant Palm Beach, Florida, United States.

Also mentioned twice are the 21c Museum Hotels: a hotel-contemporary art museum-restaurant hybrid that can be found in eight US cities.

And the winning two in our list of lists? Those with the very finest art collections (or at least good collections allied with the best guest reviewer hosting policies)?

A drumroll please, for … The Silo and The Dolder Grand.

It could be argued that Cape Town’s The Silo (built inside a repurposed 1921 grain silo) has an unfair advantage, with it being right above the Zeitz MOCAA (Museum of Contemporary Art Africa), home of the continent’s largest collection of contemporary African art. But we’re all for unfair advantages, especially when exploited on guided tours of MOCAA by The Silo’s concierge, with the museum entrance fee included in all room rates.

Fernando Botero’s sculpture Woman With Fruit (1996) at The Dolder Grand hotel in Zurich, Switzerland.

Modest when compared with the size of some other art-focused hotel collections, the 120 pieces owned by The Dolder Grand, in Zurich, Switzerland, nevertheless include work by international stars such as Joan Miró and Zaha Hadid, as well as national icons Ferdinand Hodler, Urs Fischer and Alberto Giacometti.

Among its paintings are Femmes métamorphosées – Les sept arts (1957), by Dalí. Fernando Botero’s Woman With Fruit (1996) sculpture lies by the pool and Takashi Murakami’s Troll’s Umbrella (2002) shares its name with a tarragon cordial-based cocktail made at the hotel bar.

And then there’s Saltz, a restaurant at The Dolder Grand that “is a work of art in itself”, claims ARTnews.

The Dolder Grand’s Saltz restaurant was designed as “a reflection of Switzerland; the neon light running along a red wall is meant to evoke the Alps”, ARTnews reports. Photo: Handout

“Artist Rolf Sachs designed the dining room as a reflection of Switzerland; the neon light running along a red wall is meant to evoke the Alps.”

Arguably that makes it the ultimate “deeply immersive experience” in a destination.

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