Art In Hotels Brings Cultured Curb Appeal

High-end art is becoming an amenity in luxury developments.

By Team Agorafy August 1, 2016
Jeff Koons' Popeye sculpture display at the Wynn Hotel. Editorial Credit: Kobby Dagan -

If you’re like most people, when someone utters the words ‘hotel art’—images of dogs playing poker and sad clowns painted on black velvet come to mind. That particular brand of kitsch had its time and place, but now sad-eyed puppies need to step aside. There’s a new kind of hotel art in town… and in cities around the world.

Related: This Bushwick Apartment Building Is Remodeled After NYC Subway

The idea of art in hotels isn’t new. Back in the day, landscapes often hung on walls that would reflect the area of the country you were in. Later, in the 60’s and 70’s, arty residents of the Chelsea Hotel in New York would present their artwork in lieu of rent. Some of it remains there still to this day. Larger hotels used to purchase their art from manufacturing companies who, like a Walmart for art, sold the stuff in bulk. Now hotels are looking to distinguish themselves with art of much higher quality. Some hotels rival galleries as the new, hot place to display and view art. For the artist, having their work in exclusive places is an opportunity for their art to be viewed by everyone from celebrities and high-end collectors, to just regular folks on holiday.

Many commercial and private real estate developers are big art patrons. Merging real estate, art and architecture can not only put an aesthetic stamp on a structure, but further property appeal, having a profound impact on property values. Many real estate development, investment and management companies like RFR Holding in New York City, have top notch public arts programs. They have placed original works by icons such as Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Jean-Michael Basquiat and Keith Haring in buildings across the city and across the globe.

Developer Stephen Ross’s mammoth Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project in Manhattan is the largest private real estate development in the history of the United States, not to mention the biggest ever development in New York City. Right in the middle of 14 acres of public space will sit an epic sculpture (with an equally epic price tag) by famous artist, Thomas Heatherwick. This, in hopes of attracting art aficionados with real estate ambitions from around the world.

When it comes to how art defines and enhances these spaces, Australian landscape architect Stuart Beekmeyer with Bouldergeist Design says, “Space becomes ‘place’ when you attach feeling and memory—whether the memory is current to the actual space, or you’re reliving it through paintings and sculpture. Hotels and public spaces take this idea to create a sense of branding.”

So, art can not only be used for branding, but these investments can also pay off for big time for developers through the artwork’s financial appreciation as well.

Next time you find yourself at The Thompson LES Hotel in New York City, swimming above a tryptic of tiled film stills of Andy Warhol, taken from “Andy Warhol: Portraits of the Artist as a Young Man,” by Gerard Malanga, or in Louisville at the Museum Hotel where Steve Wilson and his wife, Laura Lee Brown, showcase a $10 million contemporary art collection, you can feel like you’re getting a dose of culture with your $7 room-service blueberry muffin. That makes it easier to swallow.

Team Agorafy



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