We all have mediums in which we tell the world who we are. A writer has his words. A painter has his canvas. A designer has their silhouettes. From the perspective of an observer who has never read our words or seen our paintings, we still communicate our essence in many other mediums. The way we walk, the expression on our faces, the shoes we wear, the things we wear. A building, or a hotel, does much the same thing.
The question is: how does a hotel communicate self-expression without self? When a hotel assumes a persona, the way it tells the world who it is comes with a similar set of indicators. The food they love, the people they attract, and especially the art that adorns their walls. Like the clothes we choose to wear, art in a hotel is an extension of a place’s personality. He shows us what they represent, it is an expression of his soul.
As soon as I met The Londoner in Leicester Square, I began to piece together his personality. Five stars told me it was classy. High-end tech told me it was modern. The little binoculars placed in my room told me it was cheeky. The crowd buzzing in the lobby told me it was popular. The bed so comfortable I slept through my alarm told me it was nourishing. The eclectic art that hung everywhere told me it had style. I spoke to Krishma Singh Cher, Head of Design at The Londoner, to understand the importance of a hotel’s art collection, the value it brings to guests and, of course, how social media is factored into all of this.
NS: How do you visualize a hotel’s art collection before it comes to life? Where to start ?
KSD: Art is the primary means of communicating a hotel’s personality to its guests and how it strives to be represented in society. We wanted The Londoner’s art collection to reference the past while being cutting edge like the city in which it is located. We wanted it to be glamorous but inclusive, a nod to our London spirit.
NS: What story is Londoner’s art trying to tell?
KSD: The collection is meant to feel like the private collection of a world traveler whose roots lie in London’s West End. While the roster of artists is international, most of the artists featured are British. We have works by various renowned and emerging artists, showcasing an abundance of creative talent. London is a decidedly inclusive city, and we wanted to demonstrate that The Londoner is an integral part of the fabric of the city. The city’s rich history is referenced in the property’s art but with a modern sensibility. For example, the sun and the moon are recurring themes that refer to Wyld’s Great Globe.—a major attraction in Leicester Square in the 19th century. In the Trafalgar Suites there are bespoke pieces from the Battle of Trafalgar. There are modern reinterpretations of historic British figures throughout the building, from Horatio Nelson to the wives of Henry VIII whose cropped portraits can be found in the powder rooms of The Residence.
NS: Where did you find the illustrations for The Londoner?
KSD: We worked closely with James Robertson, who curated artwork for the collection of local artists and galleries. We had the honor of working directly with several London artists, such as Marc Quinn and Edd Pearman. We have also purchased works of art from several London galleries, including Cristea Roberts Gallery, where we sourced works by world renowned artists such as Antony Gormley, Julian Opie, Idris Khan and Michael Hoppen Gallery for the brilliant works of Tim Walker. International artists are also included in the collection, such as Andrea Torres Balaguer from Spain, Stefan Gunnesch from Germany, Tina Lechner from Austria and Donovan Davis from Canada.
NS: How do you put yourself in the shoes of a guest when you organize the collection?
KSD: We wanted to curate a collection that offered a unique and sometimes witty sense of history based on the location of the hotel. Leicester Square has always been a destination for entertainment and fashion. Artwork curated for The Londoner attempts to reveal little secrets and fables about the hotel’s origins—digging deep through the surface of today’s modern streets and squares to the site’s Roman origins and roots. We also wanted to include the guests in the work itself. Our framed mirrors are thoughtfully placed throughout the collection to capture the gaze of guests. They become changing and ephemeral portraits of those who create tomorrow’s history today.
NS: How can an art collection increase the experiential value of a hotel for the guest?
KSD: A quote from James Robertson puts it very succinctly: “A great hotel is a vector of culture. The essence of culture is art. A grand hotel is an arbiter of taste and sophistication, transcending trends and fashion. It uplifts and stimulates all the senses, providing guests with a unique and memorable experience that can often enrich lives in the most positive way. The art collection for The Londoner is in synergy with the design and architecture of the hotel, its location and history, and its place today in the heart of London, one of the most beautiful and most exhilarating in the world”.
NS: How do you measure this value?
KSD: The exact value is difficult to measure, but the impression and enhancement it provides to the guest experience gives the hotel artistic value. I would like to think that The Londoner artwork makes the stay memorable and becomes a talking point, therefore adding to the value of The Londoner brand.
NS: How do you differentiate between artwork in the bedroom and public spaces?
KSD: I believe art in public spaces should be immersive, grab the customer’s attention, or help tell the story of the space. The bedroom experience, in my opinion, should still be part of the narrative, but in a more restful way. We have Edd Pearman prints in our rooms on a floating frame above the bed. These detailed line drawings are the artist’s imagination of what we discovered while excavating the basement of the hotel.
NS: How is social media factored into your selection, if any?
KSD: The pieces should resonate with our clients and make them want to photograph the art, whether it’s because of the way they’re hung or because they’re immersive. Interestingly enough, we’re actually planning to move our Antony Gormley piece so it’s positioned in a more social media-friendly place. We want our guests to be able to interact with the artwork in a way they couldn’t in a museum.
NS: What are some of your favorite pieces in the collection?
KSD: There are so many pieces that I love, and they are constantly changing. I’m a fan of the colorful Carolina Mizrahi set photography we have in our Penthouse suite. I also love the immersive artwork of The Residence, a hand-painted mural by En Viu that feels like you’ve escaped into a surreal magical garden on a summer night.