Art collections, an art program, sculpture gardens—at least something “arty”— is pretty much a given in any haute hotels. It’s no mystery why: keeping your personal art collection in use in a commercial context often allows billionaire owners to dodge millions in taxes. Some hotels have been raided by authorities for doing just that. But it’s nice for the guests, too.
Now, more hotels around the world don’t just want to act as ersatz private museums, they want to be art factories.
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It’s been going on since 1988 on the island of Crete at the 5-star Minos Beach Art Hotel, owned by Gina Mamidaki. She has over 70 pieces of art in the hotel’s sculpture garden, collected from three different artists-in-residence.
The origins of the idea are even older. In the late 14th-century, Cosimo de Medici famously cloistered himself in a villa to “create.” In the 18th and 19th centuries, aristos collected poets and artists to reside in their country estates. Today, offering artists free board, financial assistance and a place to create is something more: smart business. It allows a hotel to become part of a work’s terroir—while adding cache to the property and attracting interest. It’s art with a jigger of advertising.
After ending her art residency program in 1993, Mamidaki revived it during the pandemic, offering an “Art Prize” and a “Research Residency Programme.” It was so successful that she expanded the concept and opened it to the public.
“The residency aspires to provide a safe space for coexistence and to create a new platform for discussion, and experimentation, bringing together cultural professionals in a collective learning experience,” says Yota Dimitriou, director of the G&A Mamidakis Foundation, named after Gina’s parents. “We organize workshops and tours for young students, often led by artists and curators. We produced a series of seminars on Greek mythology, conducted educational tours of our art collection. We aim to create an artful journey for art lovers and world explorers.”
Alumni of the residency include Vlassis Kaniaris, George Lappas and Giorgos Gyparakis.
In the alpine region of Lech, Austria, art has always had a place. Prominent artists erect sculptures in the most unassuming places for hikers and snowboarders to discover. Art installations like the “Horizon Field” by British sculptor Antony Gormley and SkySpace by James Turrell draw travelers for self-guided art appreciation sessions. Fittingly, here locals gather, not in a museum or art gallery, but in the former garage of the 5-star luxury boutique hotel, Kristiania Lech, where their art collection is on display.
Led by owner Gertrud Schneider, the hotel hosts seasonal art exhibitions, music and design programs and “Salon Talks.”
“Kristiania Lech has been established as a recognized center of contemporary art,” says Schenider, who pursued her own passion for contemporary art by commissioning a series of installations in cooperation with local art gallery Sturm & Schober to complement her mother’s art collection. “Lech at a height of 1,444 meters [4,737 feet] is not only a mountain hot spot, but a magical place where artists bundle their creative drive.”
Her residency program includes a coterie of art insiders—like Silvie Aigner from Parnass Art Magazine and the gallerists Gabi Schober and Michael Sturm—who invite “an illustrious circle of art enthusiasts who come to Lech every year to meet.”
In Stockholm, at the newly opened 5-star luxury hotel Villa Dagma, the Malmström family houses their art collection of European and Egyptian art dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. They also host a series of curated art and music programs featuring contemporary Swedish artists and activists, some of whom reside within the hotel’s walls. Those artists create pop-up exhibitions to heighten the arts and culture experience at Villa Dagma. Past artists include Martin Sundstrom and Andrehn-Schipt Jenko.
It’s a similar story at Il Bottaccio, set in the rolling Tuscan hills, a pioneer in the world of artist-in-residency programs. Not only does the hotel have its own private art gallery on premise (and in nearby Florence), but the family-owned hotel offers immersive experiences with local Pietrasanta artist and author Paola Michela Mineo. Mineo pops into the hotel for private curated art walks through the grounds of the expansive property, private discussions in the garden (where work is on display) and mingling events with aperitifs.
So what’s it all for? Just consider the case of Claude Monet. More than a century ago, he painted the River Thames from the balcony at The Savoy in London. Will one of these artists-in-residency give one of these contemporary hotels a similar gift? Time will only tell.
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