While some hotels may look like a work of art, some properties take their art appreciation to a whole other level. From edgy in-house exhibition spaces open around the clock to happy-hour art tours—not to mention a hotel where guests can sleep beneath floor-to-ceiling paintings—these art-obsessed hotels cater to guests’ creative sides, offering experiences that are like a night at the museum. So let us paint you a picture: This hot list of hotels boasts masterful art collections and activities that will leave you feeling inspired.
By Alexis Korman
Alexis Korman is a freelance wine, food, and travel writer based in New Orleans, and is Contributing Food Editor at Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Follow her adventures eating and drinking around the world on Twitter @lexisips.
21c Museum Hotel
WHERE: Bentonville, Arkansas
Founded in Louisville, Kentucky, by contemporary art collectors Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, the 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville is the boutique hotel chain’s newest property (it opened in February 2013). Despite a somewhat surprising location in northwestern Arkansas, it has 12,000-square-feet of cutting-edge museum-like space stocked with 21st-century art. There are pieces to discover around every corner, even in guest bathrooms, with works by Sam Van Aken, Serkan Ozkaya and Alexandre Arrechea, along with eight site-specific installations integrated into the hotel’s physical spaces. Want to pack more culture into your stay? In addition to multimedia installations, poetry readings, artist lectures and live performances, the hotel is situated just a quarter mile from Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
Insider Tip: Can’t book a room? The museum is open free of charge to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit the Bentonville Convention & Visitors Bureau Arkansas
WHERE: Austin, Texas
Once the Goodall Wooten mansion—one of the city’s original landmark estates—Hotel Ella is rich in Austin’s history and creative culture. Guests of the 47-room hotel can stroll through the on-site sculpture garden (look for works by Barbara Segal), take in original Ansel Adams photography, and peruse figure works by Texas artist Charles Umlauf. To punctuate your stay, try the happy-hour art tour of the property and for the right price, you can take home some of the pieces you see along the way.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Austin Travel Guide
WHERE: New York City
Chic Midtown Manhattan hotel The Quin not only offers refuge for art-loving guests, but is a sanctuary for working artists, too. The hotel’s Quin Arts program includes custom installations, like a 15-foot video art wall in the lobby, along with an artist-in-residence program (artworks made on the property later become part of the hotel’s permanent collection). And did we mention the building once housed legendary painters like Marc Chagall and Georgia O’Keefe?
Insider Tip: The first artist-in-residence, Nick Walker, is set to debut a stunning print that incorporates a miniature replica of the hotel in 2014.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide
The Waldorf Astoria Chicago
WHERE: Chicago, Illinois
Some 30 international contemporary artists have contributed to the compelling collection on display in the lobby spaces at the Waldorf Astoria in Chicago, including two sculptures by Javier Marin, a large-scale color photograph from Seton Smith’s “Istanbul Series” and a tapestry called “Victory and the Life of Beauty” by Marilyn Pappas. Even the hotel’s restrooms show off serious works, including pieces by Minnesota-based artist Clarence Morgan and Ryuijie Douglas of Japan.
Insider Tip: Hitting the Waldorf’s Elysian Spa? You’ll have to hold your breath to find the art hidden in the pool: a beautiful tiled mosaic that resembles a rose evokes swimming among rose petals.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Chicago Travel Guide
WHERE: San Diego, California
Laying claim to an art collection worth $6.5 million—including sculptures, ironwork, murals, and paintings by top artists in North America and Europe—the historic U.S. Grant is truly a haven for art aficionados. Its lobby is home to Celebration Fine Art Gallery, filled with art and antiques for browsing (and, if your wallet permits, purchasing). Guest rooms, too, immerse visitors in beautiful works of art: The headboards are actually custom drip paintings by artist Yves Clement.
Insider Tip: Keep an eye out for the primroses scattered around the hotel. The blossom is the official flower of the hotel's owners, the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation. Fittingly, three appear in the lobby’s centerpiece, a Native American bronze sculpture.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s San Diego Travel Guide
The Fontainebleau Miami Beach
WHERE: Miami, Florida
Perhaps one of Miami’s most iconic modernist hotels, the Fontainebleau Miami Beach was designed by legendary architect Morris Lapidus, and has been turning heads with its cheeky design ever since opening in 1954. But in addition to being an architectural landmark, its contemporary art collection features museum-worthy pieces by art-world powerhouses James Turrell, Ai Weiwei, and Tracey Emin, along with striking pieces by Damien Hirst, John Baldessari, and Doug Suggs.
Insider Tip: Chinese sculptor Ai Weiwei created three eye-catching chandeliers for the property, notable for their dramatically oversized scale.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Miami Travel Guide
WHERE: Dallas, Texas
The Headington Companies, owner of The Joule, have acquired museum-quality works for the recently renovated hotel and nearby spaces. Guests can ponder the works of a variety of artists, including up-and-comers Noam Rappaport, Andrew Kuo, and Anthony Pearson, or head across the street to 1607, an exhibition space that houses Tony Tasset’s “Eye”, a 30-foot sculpture. Bonus: A new outdoor exhibition space is being developed in collaboration with the Nasher Sculpture Center.
Insider Tip: Since cooking is an art, look no further than the hotel’s restaurant, CBD Provisions, for further inspiration. It offers artfully made dishes that push the envelope in terms of presentation, like the Berkshire pig head carnitas (it’s a pig’s head on a plate).
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Dallas-Fort Worth Travel Guide
The James Royal Palm
WHERE: Miami, Florida
Celebrating the unique convergence of cultures only found in Miami—American, European, and Latin American—The James Royal Palm features a meticulously curated art collection called “An Ocean Apart” by Lauren Rottet of Rottet Studio (the hotel’s interior design firm). Guests can see a private collection of paintings, photographs, and prints by artists including Loriel Beltran, David Drebin, and Michael Dwek spread about the 70,000 square feet of public spaces, or simply gaze at the original “day paintings” that hang in the rooms (these works were created by seven artists asked to consider Cezanne's “The Bather” in their creation, then executed in a single day).
Insider Tip: The Cultural Collection is a result of the hotel’s partnership with several local institutions, like the Museum of Contemporary Art, New World Symphony and Young Arts, each of which created a work for the hotel.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Miami Travel Guide
Hotel des Arts
WHERE: San Francisco, California
Located in the heart of San Francisco’s French Quarter, Hotel des Arts may offer Euro-style accommodations (think small, and many rooms have shared bathrooms), but its dedication to art lives large. Take a peek at any of the 51 guest rooms, and you’ll find imaginative instillations and edgy graffiti-inspired works by local and international artists, including Shepard Fairey, David Choe, Buff Monster, and Casey O’Connell. In addition to sleeping beneath a floor-to-ceiling art work, guests can marvel at the hotel’s rotating collection displayed in every hallway that changes every three months.
Insider Tip: Scope out the rooms online, then call the hotel to reserve your favorite artist.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s San Francisco Travel Guide
The Belmond El Encanto
WHERE: Santa Barbara, California
From California coastal painters like Charles Arnoldi to internationally renowned artists such as Damien Hirst, the Belmond El Encanto is filled with whimsical art touches to uncover inside and out (don’t miss the five colorful ceramic pigs hidden in the lush gardens). Following a seven-year renovation project, the seven-acre property offers 92 bungalows overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and much of the art was commissioned to complement the hotel’s strong connection to nature: “120 Prayers” by Yoshitomo Saito is comprised of 120 bronze pine cones that hang in an organic formation.
Insider Tip: Guests can follow Paul Villinski’s “Sueño” down the grand staircase to the hotel’s ballroom and spa: The installment is a trail of metal butterflies that echoes the hotel’s location on a significant butterfly migration and breeding path.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Santa Barbara and the Central Coast Travel Guide