Made you look: hotels with dynamic art collections


Made you look: hotels with dynamic art collections

The creatively inclined stays where hotel art is a cultural force

Kate Weir

BY Kate Weir21 June 2024

Hotel art, once part-of-the-furniture decor, is now being used to elevate and distinguish a stay. Some hoteliers invest millions in a collection, and for good reason – the right pieces don’t just notch up the ambience, but can foster community spirit, contribute to guests’ overall wellbeing and foster a true sense of place.

Then there are those hotels where creativity bursts off the canvas: encouraging guests to paint, draw and sculpt, contemplate alternative ways to live, or where works are used as a historic touchpoint. Here are the well-dressed stays where art doesn’t just hang around…

Artist Residence Brighton

United Kingdom

From Brighton to Bristol, the Artist Residence group’s signature look is walls clad with cheeky neon signs, whimsical installations and bold canvases. Unsurprisingly, there was some innovative problem-solving behind this, when owner Justin and wife Charlie took over a traditional Regency Square hotel after his mother was injured in an accident, and needed to refurb on a budget – an open call for artists on Gumtree was eagerly answered by a multitude of creatives, who were offered food and board in exchange; and thus a niche for affordable, bleeding-edge-of-cool stays was filled.

Decor here not only acts as a guide to Brighton’s loud-and-proud arts landscape, via the likes of neon luminary Andy Doig, graffiti genius Pure Evil, collage-compiler Joe Webb and non-binary illustrator and filmmaker Fox Fisher; but also the UK’s wider modern-art scene. See the whimsical felt objets of Lucy Sparrow, painter Dave White’s emotive animal prints, the Connor Brothers’ Penguin classics pastiches and other offbeat offerings. Aside from a room where an overenthusiastic artist graffitied wall to ceiling to wall — which had to be repainted because guests found it hard to sleep in — it’s a gamble that’s paid off and allowed the owners to give back, raising money for CALM and Art Against Knives though limited-edition print releases.

The works to watch Curation may have been chaotically done, but the collection is tight across the board here: French graffitist Blek le Rat makes a cameo in the Tiny Sea View rooms, and we love the lit-up washing-line hanging in the lounge, the late, great Dan Hillier’s surrealist portraiture and Banksy-collaborator Ben Eine’s fancy font work.

See more Enter and Hidden galleries are nearby, and at Andy Doig’s studio along Madeira Drive you could make your own neon light during a one- or two-day class.

Soho House Mumbai


Kate Bryan, art historian, curator and TV personality has one of her field’s most enviable jobs as global director of art for Soho House. Across the residences, she curates bright new things, big names and lost heroes from the locality (see Austin’s Break The Mould theme, where pieces resist usual forms, or Rome’s Saints and Sinners series). In Soho House Mumbai, she’s connected with and amplified creatives from the community, with 85% of the 200 artworks on display made by Indian natives or those of Indian descent.

The result is a dynamically diverse swathe of the subcontinent’s contemporary art scene, with a downloadable map to guide you through: an Op-esque Bindi painting by multimedia-dabbler Bharti Kher, Nandan Ghiya’s jarring mash-ups, confrontational feminist photography by Pushpamala N, slogan-bearing LED signage from RAQs Media Collective… Plus, pieces made on-residency by Hollyoaks actress turned painter Scarlett Bowman, found vintage works and Tracey Emin sketches, make for a mix as complex as mehndi patterns. But all eyes are on what’s happening in the city: Soho House had a dedicated hub at the launch of the Art Mumbai fair in 2023 – and looks set to pitch up in 2024 – and art nights, talks and exhibition previews are held on-site (some members-only).

The works to watch Raqib Shaw’s opulent, mythical take on Le déjeuner sur l’herbe; playful Princess Pea works across performance photography, print and sculpture; and Thukral and Tagra’s comment on consumer culture, Knowledge Vs Passion And Devotion.

See more Hit the super-cool 47-A: Design Gallery; Chemould CoLab, which runs a summer residency programme for emerging talents; and Jhaveri Contemporary, which puts undersung art histories in your sightline.

Loire Valley Lodges


France’s valley of kings may have more fairy-tale châteaux than you can shake a sceptre at (literally, in the case of Sleeping Beauty-inspiring Ussé), but go deep into the forest outside Tours, just a two-hour drive from Paris, and you’ll find a very different kind of stay in the Loire Valley Lodges. Amid douglas fir and old oaks are stilted wooden dens so resoundingly restful that petty inter-warring feels very much consigned to history. The only thing that might knock you out of a pleasingly somnambulant state is a shock of the new – where the art dealer owner has called on their creative friends (graffitists, photographers, sculptors) to make the visual language shoutier.

In one lodge, Harlem graffiti artist JonOne has let loose with vari-hued acrylics; in another, postindustrial artist Aurèle has created a sunnier outlook (with his signature Lostdog motif); and in Moodywood, the curious brain of Cédric Marcillac has conjured up Kahlo-esque hand-embroidered quilts, seats with neon laces sewn through them and a lamp made of hundreds of Barbie doll legs – you certainly don’t get that in the ​​Plantagenêt Gothic. With scant WiFi, lyrical hikes and sensory forest immersion with a dedicated ‘sylvotherapist’ (an expert in nature-based healing) to be had, you have little choice but to ponder life’s Big Questions, with a monumental art trail through the forest to give your imagination a gentle nudge.

The works to watch A larger take on Aurèle’s Lostdog, melancholically beautiful memento mori piece Vanity with Butterflies by Philippe Pasqua, the ghostly portrait of late sculptor Camille Claudel by Michel Audiard, and Jacques Bosser’s giant colourful cow, among other surprises.

See more Works by traditional artists (Delacroix, Degas, Monet, Rubens and Rodin) are on display at the Tours Museum of Fine Arts — a bishop’s palace which dates back to the fourth century — a 30-minute drive away.

Rhinoceros Roma


Hotels with an art gallery are a good start if you want to live and breathe the form. Cultural heavyweight hotel Rhinoceros Roma sits atop a gallery of the same name (although the line between that and hotel blurs within), founded by Alda Fendi of the fashion dynasty and designed by starchitect Jean Nouvel. Your first sign that this isn’t your usual hideaway is the giant horned beast set below a fourth-century Arch of Janus (illuminated with work by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro) out front.

Within, everyone from Michelangelo (whose Crouching Boy sculpture was a coup from St Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum) to El Greco to Man Ray, alongside Europe’s new-guard – François Ghebaly’s abstracts, Claudia Rogge’s photography, Patricia Iglesias Peco’s rampant florals – has been hosted. So, you never know who you’ll be sleeping alongside. There’s more musing to be done in your apartment (with a strikingly modern stainless-steel kitchen), with wall candy courtesy of ancient graffiti and museum-piece furnishings by Vitra, Starck, Cassina and more. Set at the foot of Palatine Hill, where Rome began, this cornerstone of art and fashion is emblematic of the city’s bold future.

The works to watch Depends who’s on show at the time (currently Ronan Bouroullec), but with frequent shifts and creative collabs, there’s always something to eyeball.

See more We think there might be some more art in Rome… When you’ve had your fill of the spread of Caravaggios and anyone a Ninja Turtle was named after, check out the contemporary scene at Maxxi and Macro or La Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna.

The Silo Hotel

South Africa

Silo Hotel owner Liz Biden has recontextualised this striking industrial building, taking it from a resource exploited by European trade to a unique space for showcasing Africa’s greatest creative talents. This old grain store has very strong foundations, sitting atop both the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa’s nine floors of fresh masterpieces; and its own subterranean gallery, the Vault, where rotating exhibitions are held (the hotel purchases a piece from each one to bulk up its collection), and where guests can buy a souvenir with substance.

From entering the lobby to unwinding in your room and swigging your way through excellent South African wines in the bar – with views you wish you could hang on a wall – the Silo’s art obsession is in your face, but joyfully so. That passion brims over: a dedicated art concierge is your go-to for intel on the works within and Cape Town galleries; tours can be tailored to your tastes; and the hotel’s Lalela Project provides students from local townships with free arts education. From Pieter Hugo’s confrontational photographs of Nollywood stars to Cyrus Kabiru’s mod masks and Georgina Gratrix’s exaggerated florals, the cargo this building holds is now considerably more precious.

The works to watch Keep an eye out for Frances Goodman’s ruminations on the female identity, Athi-Patra Ruga’s sensual utopias, Kudzanai Chiurai’s social commentary through mixed media, and Jody Paulsen’s vibrant felt assemblages.

See more Along the V&A waterfront where the hotel sits, there’s the South African Art Collection Gallery with yet more modern works and Caroline Gibello’s space for showcasing her engaging wildlife photography. To get a wider view of the cultural landscape, grab a map for monthly First Thursdays, which will take you through the most exciting artistic events.

Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort

St Lucia

With the soft, sandy spoil of its name, plus a sociable gathering of palms, blue skies above and mighty Pitons all around, Sugar Beach is what you imagine when you think of the Caribbean. It could just lie back like the lounging guests along its shore and think, ‘God, I’m pretty’, but no – thanks to an art collection with some serious names, there’s a lot more to this paradise. Warhol, Hirst, Koons, Banksy and Lichtenstein make this resort loudly Pop. And throughout the buildings and grounds, the scale stays grand, with Tom Sachs’ giant Melody sculpture, KAWS’ blown-up riffs on a certain Disney rodent and Olafur Eliasson’s metal origami.

If this is all new to you, don’t worry: the hotel has a booklet detailing each piece, and a downloadable audio guide to give deeper insight. Of course, there’s plenty of rum tasting, beach barbecuing, chocolate massages, water-based fun and good old lying around to do too, but having a collection that rivals your Tates, MoMAs and Guggenheims woven into the fabric makes for a more edifying island escape.

The works to watch So many stand-outs: Warhol’s Black Rhino (in lurid colour, of course), Banksy’s £10 note bearing Princess Diana, Koons’ silver rabbit, Lichtenstein’s wailing Shipboard Girl and Julian Opie’s deceptively simple figures.

See more Your immediate surroundings are wonderfully wild, but a 90-minute drive north, capital Castries has a handful of galleries, such as Morne Fortune Museum and Eudovic Art Studio for expertly hewn wooden sculptures.

See more creatively conceived hotels here.