How technology is changing hotel art

The is the final part in a series on art in hospitality. Click here for part two: Hotel art trending toward being local, interactive.

In Milwaukee, the Pfister Hotel has used art as a visitor attraction since the property opened its doors in 1893, and now reportedly has the largest collection of Victorian art in any hotel in the world. In 2009, management launched the Artist in Residence program that lets guests interact with a dedicated arts professional while he or she works. This has not only furthered the hotel’s role as an art hub in Milwaukee, but has also provided the first new artwork to the property in more than 120 years as each artist leaves a “legacy piece” behind to be added to the permanent collection.

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The Pfister is also leveraging technology to promote its art collection. Using their smartphones, guests can download an Augmented Reality app that provides detailed information on certain pieces, and incorporates multimedia to bring the artwork to life in new ways. “The idea for the Augmented Reality app was brainstormed as a way to make the Victorian artwork more relevant to a younger demographic, specifically targeting millennials,” said Joseph Khairallah, COO for Marcus Hotels & Resorts, which owns and operates the hotel. The hotel has also expanded the coasters in its restaurants and banquet rooms, and will augment the Artist in Residence pieces that will be on walls in the Tower rooms.

Technology, Khairallah added, helps people appreciate artwork in new ways. “It’s more interactive,” he said, noting that the hotel has always offered concierge-guided tours of its artwork, and that the artist in residence also offers tours. “This is a new twist, and by working in a more modern way, it adds to the guest experience.” 

The app lets guests explore the artwork at their own pace, he noted, and offers an education that caters to their interests. “People these days are looking for choices,” he said. “This is an additional choice for them. It’s one thing to hear a concierge talk about a piece, but it’s another to get a clip from a documentary.”