HGU New York creates atmosphere through art

Downtown New York-based Alfa Development founder and CEO Michael Namer is not only a real estate developer and hotelier but is also the owner and founder of Gallery 151, a local gallery that promotes emerging contemporary artists and community art projects. When Alfa moved into hotels, Namer saw an opportunity to bring his love of art to a new audience. HGU New York, which opened this summer, is filled with artwork that Namer selected to create a specific vibe.

“I choose the artwork for HGU New York based on its history and location,” he said. “The hotel is very eclectic, landmarked in 1905, and we maintained some of the original architecture, which all adds to the narrative.”

Namer hand-selected every piece of artwork with his team at Gallery 151. “Each room has its own narrative,” he said. The hotel’s Lobby Bar, for example, displays contemporary Latin art, while the 1905 Lounge plays into the history of the space. “The lounge used to be a speakeasy in the 1920s and ’30s,” Namer said. To evoke the decadence of the Prohibition era, Namer selected artwork depicting nude Folies Bergère dancers, as well as other nude portraits from the 1980s and today. The selections, he said, highlight the history and parallels of old New York to contemporary New York.

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Guestrooms, meanwhile, have historic photographs of old New York from the early 1900s. But to connect history to present day, each photo has one modern element. For example, Namer said, an old black-and-white photo may show colored graffiti on a street. But New York is ever changing, and what is trendy and chic one day becomes tired the next. To remain fresh, the art at HGU will rotate every few months to “engage people in a new way,” Namer said. In February, Gallery 151 will curate a collection of 22 pictures from Anton Parrish in the hotel’s 1905 Lounge. “The photos are of famous artists and musicians in NYC from the ’70s and ’80s, including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol,” Namer said.

As a hotelier and gallery owner, Namer plans to continue combining his two interests. “For the next hotel, whatever space we choose will be different and we will play into the neighborhood, culture and history the same way we did with HGU New York,” he said. HM

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