Skip the museums and spend the night at one of these art-filled hotels.
Best Hotel Art Collections
The Setting: Dakis Joannou, Greek billionaire industrialist, founder of the DESTE Foundation Centre for Contemporary Art in Athens, and owner of the over-the-top Semiramis Hotel, has one of the most impressive private collections of contemporary art in the world. (He also has a 114-foot yacht, named Guilty, with an exterior designed and painted by Jeff Koons.) Designed by Karim Rashid, the 51-room property is an explosion of pop-art color (think glowing pink) accented by rotating pieces from Joannou’s collection.
Collection Highlights: Jeff in the Position of Adam, by bad-boy artist Jeff Koons, features himself and his then-porn-star wife in a salacious pose. There are also two photographs by Spencer Tunick, known for shooting group nudes in public places.
New York City ’s Gramercy Park Hotel is a modern Gothic fantasy, with plush crimson velvets, carved-wood furniture, and baronial fireplaces as well as access to the private roof club and über-exclusive Gramercy Park. But for art aficionados, the real appeal of this Ian Schrager hotel hangs on the walls: an impressive collection of artwork by Warhol, Basquiat, Haring, and Picasso.
Over the past decade, the fine line separating art and design has become increasingly blurry, especially in hotels. It’s no longer enough for a hotelier to hire a rock star architect—he now has to consult a famous art expert or big-name gallery owner as well. The goal is to acquire works that would make a museum curator green with envy. And the result is standout collections that you can appreciate without even checking in—the art usually hangs in the lobby, bar, or restaurant.
“Hotels really can’t get away with putting mallard prints on the wall anymore,” says Paul Morris, who oversees six international art fairs including the Armory Show in New York City , VOLTA in Basel, Switzerland , and Art Toronto for the Merchandise Mart. “People are more art savvy, and artists have turned into celebrities. It creates higher expectation levels all around.”
When Morris isn’t traveling the world to art fairs, he bounces between his office in New York City and the Merchandise Mart’s headquarters in Chicago , where he likes to stay at The James . It’s no surprise why: the hotel has art books in every room and curated exhibits in the lobby.
Morris also loves the Gramercy Park Hotel for its impressive art collection that’s partly curated by legendary artist and award-winning film director Julian Schnabel. Schnabel has decorated the public spaces not just with art, but with statement furniture as well.
Across the pond in Athens , the Semiramis also has a standout collection, thanks to owner Dakis Joannou’s impressive trove of contemporary works. Wander in and you’ll see pieces by art world bad boy Jeff Koons and Japanese sensation Takashi Murakami, all displayed inside a hotel designed by Karim Rashid (known for his ultra-modern take on everything from furniture to trash cans).
Most of the hotels on our list feature art from the hotel owner’s private collection. But in some cases—like The James in Chicago and Chambers in Minneapolis —pieces are on loan from other collectors or area galleries, so the exhibits change often. This rotating palette not only attracts the local crowds, but also gives out-of-towners an excuse to return again and again.
Whether you visit for the starchitecture or the art, staying at one of these properties will make you feel like you’ve spent the night in a museum. The owners wouldn’t have it any other way.