Awesome Art Hotels
Artists and other creative types are having their way with hotel rooms—and they're thinking way outside the box.
Located in the red-light district on the oldest street in Amsterdam, the Winston, now owned by the English hotel group St. Christopher's, has quite a past. The previous owner, the late Frans Verlinden, cultivated a bohemian atmosphere in the 1980s and '90s, with "hookers, journalists, filmmakers, but most of all, artists" as frequent guests, explains manager Donald Kauwoh. Verlinden spearheaded the art-hotel trend and hired artist Aldert Mantje to select colleagues to decorate rooms and install temporary exhibits. While it started out being fairly avant-garde--guests may have encountered dead leaves and even, possibly, an animal corpse on display--the hotel has mellowed somewhat in recent years.
Notable Rooms: The anime-inspired Playnation room, by Adriaan Koster and Menno Schenk, sports psychedelic swirls and patterns on the walls, a Pac-Man-like maze on the ceiling, and a giant 3-D gold robot in the corner. Madelein de Bruijn, meanwhile, envisioned the Energy room as a life-size circuit board: Flow lines track a course along the yellow walls, and there's a lightning-bolt hazard sign on the door. Warmoesstraat 129, 011-31/20-623-1380, winston.nl, from $95.
The New Majestic
When hotelier Loh Lik Peng renovated a hotel built from four Chinatown shophouses in 2006, he collaborated with the Asian Art Options collective to find artists to paint murals in all 30 rooms.
Notable Rooms: Marker-and-acrylic murals by Sandra Lee in the Cheshire Suite conjure up a tweaked nursery-book charm; in one, a small red-haired girl flies toward a gigantic turtle. Justin Lee riffs off pop culture in three of the rooms. The one titled Da Jie ("Big Sister," pictured) features Mickey Mouse ears containing double-happiness symbols. 31-37 Bukit Pasoh Rd., 011-65/6511-4700, newmajestichotel.com, from $200.
Arte Luise Kunsthotel
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, artists camped out in a neoclassical building in the Mitte district of East Berlin until it evolved into a hotel in 1999. Dozens of artists, mainly German, decorated the rooms. There are now 50 total: A glass-and-concrete addition with nine new rooms opened in 2003.
Notable Rooms: Dieter Mammel placed an oversize oak bed in Mammel's Dream, so guests could reexperience a child's perspective. Thomas Baumgärtel went bananas in the Royal Suite. Andreas Paeslack turned Room 300 into a 3-D version of Poor Poet, a painting of a rustic room by 19th-century artist Carl Spitzweg. In a postmodern wink, Paeslack even depicted spectators on one wall. Luisenstrasse 19, 011-49/30-28-4480, luise-berlin.com, from $197.
Cape Town, South Africa
Daddy Long Legs
The poets, artists, and musicians behind Daddy Long Legs encourage guests to interact with the decor. Kim Stern's Please Do Not Disturb, for instance, has six microphones--including one in the shower--so you can amplify your singing. The neighbors won't mind: The hotel is above a music store.
Notable Rooms: Poet Finuala Dowling stocked the Palimpset room with South African literature in which she underlined favorite passages; guests can add their own marginalia. Bert Pepler's Emergency Room imagines a hospital room in red, with medical supplies as decoration. One of the hotel's more amusing rooms is Andre Vorster's You Are Here. 134 Long St., 011-27/21-422-3074, daddylonglegs.co.za, from $69.
Inspired by a 1987 Belgian exhibition of artist-decorated rooms, Bernard Redolfi commissioned one artist a year to transform one of the Windsor's rooms. The hotel is now owned by his niece Odile Payen-Redolfi, who continues the tradition. So far, 25 of the 57 rooms have received the treatment.
Notable Rooms: French photographer Raymond Hains lived in Room 40 for three years; when he left in 1995, he installed a portrait of himself taken there, amid his clutter. In Room 65, Ben Vautier spray painted phrases in French (such as "I dreamed that I fell in love with the stranger in Room 17") in red, yellow, and blue on the walls. Claudio Parmiggiani resized Room 57 from a standard rectangle into a cube, put a white underlit bed in the center, and covered the walls and ceiling with gold leaf. 11 rue Dalpozzo, 011-33/4-93-88-59-35, hotelwindsornice.com, from $132.