Hotels create, curate experiences with art

Kalisher sourced 3,000 selfies of Cleveland residents, turning the photos into a skyline mural at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown. (Cleveland Hilton Artwork Kalisher)

Selecting or creating artwork for a hotel is a delicate balance. Staying safe and subtle can leave the hotel dull, while opting for vibrant and eye-catching can overwhelm the aesthetic of the entire space. 

“Art is not decor,” said Alfa Development CEO (and gallery-owner) Michael Namer. “It is a focal point that attracts and enhances the design and story of the space.” A designer, he said, should select artwork that fits the narrative of the hotel and provokes an emotional reaction from guests. “Art is a great way to make people feel like they are somewhere else, transport people to another time and evoke thoughts and feelings.” 

Jesse Kalisher, president and CEO of art services provider Kalisher, agrees: “Art has the potential to completely set the vibe for a hotel,” he said. “It ultimately is up to the interior designer and the owner and the brand to decide if that’s the role they want art to play, and then the art consultant can execute on that.” 

When working on the Hilton Cleveland Downtown, the Kalisher team curated and commissioned $1.5 million worth of artwork that had a connection to Cleveland—“whether it was telling a Cleveland story or coming from a Cleveland artist,” Kalisher said. “You walk into that space and you know that somebody was paying attention, somebody cared about all the details of the hotel.” As an example, Kalisher cited a mural the team created for the hotel by soliciting selfies from locals through a website. More than 3,000 photos of Cleveland residents now adorn the wall. “I think it sets an attitude for the hotel,” he said. “We’re connected to the local area, we want to have the level of edge and sophistication, but we’re not taking ourselves too seriously.” 

Designers at Lasvit, a glass design company, worked with Chhada Siembieda & Associates to create an art installation for the Peninsula Paris that evokes the leaves of a plane tree floating and falling into the pond of the main lobby.

Lasvit is a Czech Republic-based glass design company that has created artwork for the Wyndham Istanbul Petek Hotel, the Peninsula Paris and the Sofitel Sentosa Resort in Singapore, among others. Maxim Velcovsky, creative director at Lasvit, said that the process of designing starts with meeting the client’s interior designers so that the artists can match the designers’ concept of the space. “In other cases, there are hotels that want a new feature in their space, something to redefine the feeling of the place,” he said, noting that the trend extends to both branded and independent hotels. “The current general demand from both types of hotels is for unique designs of a bespoke installation.” 

The process for creating this artwork, Velcovsky said, can take as long as three years prior to completing the building. “The challenge can be creating something as complex as a large-scale installation made up of 1,000 components, which requires structural analysis, as well as being aware of various nuances when doing a project in historical architecture.”


A photo posted by Lasvit (@lasvitdesign) on

Finding the right kind of artwork for a hotel is a twofold process, Kalisher said. “There’s creating art, and there’s curating and commissioning art.” The first step in determining artwork for a hotel is to meet with the interior designer and the owner and figure out what their design aesthetic is, what their budget is and what their timing is. Once the team understands the scope of what the client is looking for, they can start to pull together some recommendations. “One of the very first things we do is we give them some information that helps set their expectation for what they can afford with the budget they have,” Kalisher said. “Just like anything in life, we have things that we love and there are things that we can afford, and when those two things intersect things are great, but that’s not always the case.”