Picture lobbies, common areas, guest
rooms and meeting spaces without—
then with—art. As a painting or photograph instantly transforms a blank wall,
the difference is profound.
Art can provide a compelling calling
card and distinct identity in the crowded
hospitality marketplace. Creating ambience and atmosphere that engages the
mind and senses upon arrival, art offers its
own welcome while declaring the hotel’s
personality and values. Supplying visual
and emotional rewards while anchoring
on-site engagements such as tours, themed
events and wellness activities, art creates
enhanced guest experiences, talking points
For meetings and events with artistic
appeal, here are some North American
and international masters of the “art” of
Offering the most dimension and truest
interpretation of the “art hotel” are properties
that integrate the character of a museum.
Offering 600,000-plus square feet of meeting
space, the 1,606-room Hilton Anatole in
Dallas is a paragon example.
Opened in 1979, the property was developed by late Dallas real estate magnate
Trammell Crow, whose free-admission Crow
Collection of Asian Art, housing the singular
collection assembled by Crow and his late
wife Margaret in the 1960s, is known as the
“Jewel Box” of the Dallas Arts District.
The couple also installed many of their
global treasures in the Anatole, creating America’s largest in-hotel collection.
Highlights include a 10-foot marble statue
of Gandhi; twin life-size carved wooden
elephants from Thailand; two 12-foot Berlin
Wall sections; and in the outdoor sculpture
garden, the 15-ton propeller from the British
ocean liner RMS Lusitania, torpedoed by a
German submarine in 1915.
Programs include art scavenger hunts;
audio- and print-guided Top Art Treasures
and One-Mile Art Walk tours; and the Anatole Art Dine-Around, which pairs 15 of the
hotel’s top pieces with culinary items from its
country of origin. The Berlin Wall menu, for
example, features mini bratwurst, German
potato salad, strudel and beer.
“Could art and commerce coexist in har-
mony?” That question faced Louisville, Ky.-
based preservationists and contemporary art
collectors Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson
(also see Zoom In Q&A, this page) more than
a decade ago, as they sought to accomplish
the dual vision of downtown revitalization
and broadening the reach of contemporary
art into public life.
In 2006, partnering with renowned architect Deborah Berke, the pair transformed
several 19th century tobacco and bourbon
warehouses in downtown Louisville into
their first 21c Museum Hotel.
Their celebrated concept quickly became a
unique hospitality brand, integrating “North
America’s first museum dedicated solely to
collecting and exhibiting the art of the 21st
century” within boutique hotels created from
downtown revitalization projects.
The group-capable 21c line expanded to
other cities, including Cincinnati; Bentonville, Ark.; Durham, N.C.; and Oklahoma
City. Last month, Brown and Wilson hosted
a reception at Berke’s Manhattan studio,
announcing the opening of their seventh
property, located in Nashville, Tenn.
With Kansas City, Mo., Indianapolis and future destinations in the pipeline, groups have
HILTON ANATOLE, DALLAS
What makes art and the public sharing of art such a transformational force?
We founded 21c Museum Hotels to create a place that invokes conversation, ignites curiosity and introduces collaboration in an unconventional way. Some pieces whimsical,
others confrontational, art that provokes has always captivated us.
21c’s hybrid model isn’t an art hotel, but a fully operational contemporary art museum. Alice Gray Stites, our chief curator, creates site-specific installations, rotating
curated exhibitions and cultural programming that surprise and delight, but that also
seek to push the envelope in exploring the width and breadth of the human experience,
both lived and imagined.
As you celebrate the brand’s 11th anniversary this year, in what ways have you
seen your vision for 21c fulfilled?
We never imagined creating more than one 21c. This spring, we opened our seventh,
in Nashville. Now offering more than 75,000 square feet of total exhibition space, 21c
Museum is one of the nation’s largest contemporary art museums. Discovering the hunger for more arts experiences throughout the U.S., we’re constantly vetting new cities
and spaces, including expanding to Kansas City, Mo., next year, and developing plans
for Indianapolis and Miami.
What role does art play within the overall hospitality environment and
Our meeting rooms are gallery spaces, each housing part of the 21c Collection displayed
at a given property. These spaces are also used for artist lectures and group functions.
Whether exploring exhibitions, dining in our restaurants, or attending a meeting or
event, guests are immersed in all aspects of the experience. We seek to feed their curiosity and spark the spirit of discovery, extending the impact of the meeting far beyond
our four walls. With art experiences in unexpected places and around every corner, we
give attendees the opportunity to break away from business and blur the lines with a
leisure experience that inspires and provokes thought.
Q&A with Steve Wilson // co-founder with
Laura Lee Brown // 21c Museum Hotels //