Perhaps no element of a hotel is as changeable as its artwork—and no design trend changes as quickly as what artwork guests expect to see when they walk in the door. With “authenticity” going from industry buzzword to baseline in a short period of time, and with technology making it easier than ever to connect guests to their locations, hotel artwork has to constantly evolve.
LIDA—live interactive digital art—makes a building’s artwork part of the visitor experience. For a hotel, said JVA Art Group founder Janet Van Arsdale, this could mean everything from images of local landmarks (with information on how to get there and what else is nearby) to photos of popular dishes from local restaurants. “They don’t even have to ask the concierge where it is,” Van Arsdale said. “They can get it mapped out.”
Immersive artwork can be fun and eye-catching, but the cost can be prohibitive, cautioned Jon Cochran, VP of business development at Kalisher. “In 2014, we were all very excited about the possibility of 3D map projecting and what that could mean for creating different kinds of experiences within the same space,” he said. But the equipment that delivers the best experience for guests tends to be expensive to both purchase and operate. “The bulbs are often pricey, and you also oftentimes need an engineer who knows how to speak the language of these machines,” he said.
However it is used in a hotel, LIDA should emphasize engagement rather than promotion. “We don't want to create something that simply feels like another intrusion of ads or something that they care less about,” Cochran said. “We want to make sure that the art is meaningful and engaging.”
As hotel design increasingly focuses on a narrative, the artwork has to feed a story. “We're doing a boutique hotel in New Orleans right now and they have this whole story about how a writer comes to the hotel and there's a sculpture of this writer in wire being done in the lobby where he's writing on actual paper,” said Sally Faulkner, principal at Faulkner+Locke. “All of the artwork kind of revolves around writing.”
Murals are another popular way to give the property a sense of place. “[The hoteliers] want the local artists to come and do a chalkboard wall or a painting on the floors or in the lobbies,” Faulkner said. “They want something that connects the location to the property and give it more of a unique touch.”
“It is really important to a hotel owner or designer to dig into the local culture of their property,” said Daniel Northrup, SVP at JVA Art Group. “This could work with brand standards as long as there is some consistency throughout. However, this localized experience is very unique and needs to be customized for the specific location.” Giving guests a sense of place and heritage can be as simple as using photographs of local attractions to something much more complex, like curating unique installations from local artists or using regional materials to produce and construct something dimensional. “All of these localized and custom experiences really drive the clientele to look a little deeper and learn about the history, culture or neighborhood,” Northrup said, noting that wallcovering is a great way for hotels to cover a large amount of area for a relatively inexpensive cost. “The impact that these large graphics provide is bar none,” he said. Graphics can range from a custom unique pattern to historical references to tell a story to bright colorful imagery to add a little extra pop.
“We're working with artists who are creating pieces that you can feel the hand of the artist,” said Cochran. “When you look at a Jackson Pollock, you can see all the different kinds of paints that he used in the different colors. You can see the effort and work that went into creating that piece. So for hotel guests, it's a different kind of experience when you're bringing in a piece of art that you can see in person.”
Ultimately, he said, art is helping to tell the story of not only the space a guest is in in, but also the place. “Art consultants are in the business of telling stories," Cochran said. "For us, it's about finding the right artists and the right pieces that can really accentuate the narrative that comes from the design and the brand. We're trying to complete the experience.”