10 Asian hotels moonlighting as art galleries
Artists like to exhibit their work in 5-star hotels – they’re usually spacious and well-lit, host an affluent clientele, and are experts at catering to the public.
Hotel owners also like to invest in artwork, and their lobby displays can constitute an eye-catching and intriguing welcome for guests the moment they step through the doors.
Here are 10 luxury hotels — in the Far East and Middle East — that create a visual feast for their guests:
1 – Awei Metta, Myanmar
Renowned Belgian artist Christian Develter travelled in 2012 to Myanmar’s Chin State, visiting the hill tribes of this remote region where women have for generations tattooed their faces, symbolizing strength and beauty. Develter was subsequently commissioned by Awei Metta, ahead of its grand opening in December last year, to produce a series of lithographs, combining classic Asian beauty with this ancient custom. The canvases adorn some of the 72 rooms and are prominent throughout the hotel, where the stunning portraits appear to stare back provocatively into the viewer’s eyes.
2 – Al Bait Sharjah, UAE
Plenty of hotels have museum-worthy exhibits and some are so enamoured of their heritage, they liken the entire premises to a museum. But the Al Bait has actually opened its own, purpose-built museum. In two generous galleries, the museum tells the story of Ibrahim Bin Mohammed Al Midfa, who lived in one of the four old homes that form the foundation of the new resort. Images picture Al Midfa and his family and tell how they accrued wealth from the pearl trade and rose to prominence in the government. Glass display cases exhibit artifacts from his life, from a replica of the dagger he wore at ceremonies to the pens he used to compose poetry to books from his library. Another exhibit memorialises the location of the post office that stood on this site. In another room, the door to Al Midfa’s original home stands against a far wall, no longer providing egress to any actual place but to an imagination of the past.
3 – Chedi Club Tanah Gajah, Ubud, Bali
The Chedi Club was built as the private estate of the noted Indonesian designer Hendra Hadiprana and repurposed by GHM as a hotel in July 2004. The hotel is an artistic tour de force in itself, as it still houses the bulk of the late Hadiprana’s private collection. The collection was built up over three decades and features 29 Ganesh statues (either found or commissioned by the former owner), vases from the 16 and 17th centuries collected throughout Asia, and an impressive collection of paintings from Indonesian artists.
4 – The Anam, Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam
The Anam’s commitment to the arts is obvious all over its grounds, where an eclectic collection of hundreds of artworks by local artists hang from its walls and bedeck its pedestals. Ranging from vivid landscapes and abstract oil paintings to striking photography, the authentic artworks depict Vietnam and the daily lives of the Vietnamese, positioning the resort as a gateway to the country’s rich culture. Black and white images by Vietnamese photographer Mai Lôc, whose life story epitomises Vietnam’s rapid transformation, are among the most popular works with art-loving guests. Once living under the poorest conditions as a miner, Mai Lôc met a Norwegian couple by chance in 1995. They kept in touch and for his wedding, the couple gave him a camera, changing his life. Today he’s a sought-after photographer who has exhibited in Canada, Finland, Austria and other countries. In support of local art, the Anam becomes an open-air artist’s studio each Wednesday, ushering talented local artists onto its grounds to practice their craft.
5 – The Reverie Saigon, Vietnam
This hotel is remarkable for several astonishing pieces of art, including a ceiling installation of hand-blown Murano glass fashioned in the shape of Vietnam and accented by LED-lit crystal and steel ‘Arabesque Egg’ chandeliers, and an 1895 Bechstein grand piano transformed into art by Baldi with the addition of a mosaic veneer of malachite stone and chiselled bronze. Moreover, the hotel itself is a design aficionado’s dream. Seventeen different Italian design houses collaborated on the interiors, leading famed Italian designer Giulio Cappellinithe, art director of the Milan-based Poltrona Frau Group and an iconic trendsetter in the industry to say: “I can’t think of any other property anywhere in the world that has brought together so many of Italy’s leading furnishings design brands … except, perhaps, a museum.”
6 – Palace Hotel Tokyo, Japan
This hotel opened in 2012 after a $1.2 billion investment and they have since invested deeply in artwork. More than 1,000 pieces of art vie for eyeballs throughout the hotel, with the grandest pieces hung from the walls and put upon pedestals in the lobby, reception and in meeting spaces. The hotel itself makes its own claim as a work of art, winning renown as the best designed large hotel in the world in 2014 from Travel + Leisure magazine in the U.S. For those who want to take a memory of the artworks home, the hotel has published a book detailing its collection.
7 – Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, Vietnam
Guests are invited to experience the hotel’s storied past in the “Path of History” tour, offered twice daily at 5pm and 6pm. Led by a hotel historian, the tour includes a look at classic artifacts from the Metropole Hanoi, including photographs of famous guests (such as Charlie Chaplin and US President Bill Clinton, among others), as well as items like vintage room keys from the hotel that date back more than 100 years. For many, the highlight of the tour is a visit to the hotel’s bomb shelter, which protected famous visitors like Joan Baez and Jane Fonda from air raids during the US-Vietnam War. The bunker was closed and sealed after the war, before being rediscovered during the renovation of the Bamboo Bar in 2011.
8 – Hyatt Regency Bangkok, Thailand
A new photo gallery in one of Bangkok’s most culturally diverse areas is giving guests a glimpse into another era with a permanent exhibition on the history of Bangkok’s most important boulevard – Sukhumvit Road. Located on the fourth floor of the new Hyatt Regency Bangkok, Sukhumvit Gallery features an eclectic mix of rare photographs of people and places that tell the story of the road, vintage maps, and important documents covering the area’s history. “Nana’s roots are as a vibrant international marketplace,” explained the general manager of Hyatt Regency Bangkok Sukhumvit, Sammy Carolus. “With this gallery we are sharing the fascinating story of the neighborhood as it once was.” Sukhumvit Gallery is open daily 11am–10:30 pm, with free entrance.
9 – Grand Hyatt Taipei, Taiwan
Taipei’s largest five-star hotel is well-known for its sizeable collection of quirky art installations, watercolor paintings, and calligraphy works by Taiwanese artist Suyin Zhou. Many of Zhou’s black and white paintings adorn the walls of the hotel’s 850 guest rooms and suites, including one of a large swirl, which hangs in the entrance to one of the corner suites. In the hotel lobby, a giant wooden sphere by Korean artist, Jae Hyo Lee, is on permanent display while a life-like statue of a ‘Standing Guard’ (nicknamed ‘Charlie’ by hotel staff) by US artist Marc Sijan, stands to attention near the elevators.
10 – Laguna Lang Co, Vietnam
A commitment to Vietnamese arts is strong at Laguna Lang Co, the Southeast Asian nation’s most far-reaching integrated resort. Throughout the rooms and the public areas at the project’s award-winning hotels — Banyan Tree Lang Co and Angsana Lang Co — guests will find images by photographers depicting local life in Central Vietnam as well as artworks inspired by the area. In addition to these, the resort has not one but two galleries dedicated to showcasing the arts and crafts of the area. At Banyan Tree Gallery browsers will find everything from traditional Vietnamese crafts and furnishings to objets d’art and ethnic apparel. At Angsana Gallery, meanwhile, the range of arty artefacts spans locally-crafted baskets and lanterns as well as handcrafted ceramic burners.