Top Art Themes and Subjects That Sell to Hotels (Infographic)

The days when artworks are hung on hotel walls and rooms for the sake of filler or decoration is long over. Gone are the days when hotels were just a place in a foreign land offering a place for you to lodge, filled with nondescript prints as wallpapers along halls and mass-produced paintings. Today, hotels turn their lobbies, hallways and suites into gallery-like spaces, displaying famous artwork as part of their décor—hotels are not just hotels, they are transforming into art galleries, where you can spend a night or two.

Hospitality Art is fast becoming a global trend, for both luxury and budget hotels around the world. Through the importance hotel owners to different forms of art, by its own, it has become the tourist destination.

More and more members of the hospitality sector have been actively investing in art to make over their hotel and add to its value, story, identity and edge compared to the other competitors.

Although because not every hotelier has a rich art background, deciding which pieces or forms of art to invest maybe hard. Owners of hotels could have a hard time choosing and buying artworks for their businesses. Thanks to art consultants, telling their brand’s story through art is easier, as well as choosing the pieces that are relatable to their guests and complementing to their interior in general.

Basing on trends and patterns in the industry, here are the top 5 subjects and themes of artworks that sell to hotels.

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Why art is more than a decoration for hotels?

Gone are the days when artworks are merely fillers of a blank wall. Today, the hospitality industry has been actively acquiring and collecting different kinds of art as a marketing strategy, a symbol of brand and a step towards innovation.

Since a new breed of travelers are dominating the tourism arena, hoteliers and owners are going with the flow when it comes to their thirst in experience and all things brand new.

Currently, hotels are not just accommodation option when travelling. One of their added feature is housing art collection, varying from works by local artists, to world-renowned painters and sculptors. Since travelers do not only sleep, eat and spend a lot of free time inside, the trend is incorporating a gallery inside—not in a decorative manner, of course.

Hoteliers are thinking even farther outside the frame, installing art in the most unexpected of ways and challenging guests to think more deeply about their experience. Art has become a fundamental, rather than ornamental, element of hotel design.

Art is more than a decoration for hotels. Today, it is an experience.

Hotels use hospitality art to introduce itself, or the place where it is located. Through the works of their local artists, hotels are becoming museum-like sanctuaries where history and culture are showcased in an artistic manner.

For guests who do not have enough time to walk around the area and learn more about a place’s personality, locally-made masterpieces serve as little cobble stones that guide them as they walk through back time.

“The art is a part of the identity of the hotel,” said Jason Pomeranc, a co-owner of the Thompson LES, “and it integrates into the architecture, design, concept and what we ethereally call the vibe, the intellectual soul of the hotel.”

Art is no longer a mere wall filler. Today, it is a brand strategy.

Hotels are not only acquiring popular art collections, they are commissioning original work, hiring curators and appointing artists in residence.  As hotels compete to differentiate themselves art, it seems, is part of a modern hotel’s identity. Jan Freitag from US hotel-industry research firm STR told the Wall Street Journal recently that the rise of art in hotels is part of the “lifestyle marketing” trend.

“Hotels are trying to be more than just grey boxes with beige carpets,” he said. “It’s all about making the stay memorable.” Whereas once it was enough to put a modernist chair in the foyer and call yourself a “design hotel” guests now want something more.

Art is not only art. Today, it’s business.

Hotel art does not only spell business for hoteliers, it is also a way to give the spotlight to artists who commission work by showcasing their works through the newest venue. Hotels opened new horizons for artists to realize the benefits of displaying art, not only as potential profit sources but also in terms of enhancing and beautifying their spaces and increasing their traffic, more and more alternative venues are becoming known for regularly showing art. The best of these venues present consistent calendars of quality shows and actually get reputations in local art communities as being pretty much the same as galleries.

When did art collection in Luxury Hotels start to become a trend?

Hospitality Art, or when hotels are becoming more like art galleries with accommodations, is one of the fast-rising trends in today’s hotelier industry. From its initial purpose of being mere decorations and space fillers, art pieces have become marketing tools to draw more attention and encourage more guests than ever.

True enough, many drastic changes have happened since the first motel in San Luis Obispo, California opened in 1925. As more and more luxury, boutique and budget hotels all around the world go by the trend and started to house and collect art works, travelers and frequent hotel goers wonder: when did this trend start?

Alex Toledano, a Paris-based art consultant whose clients include Ritz-Carlton hotels, says: “Hotels, especially hotel owners, recognize that the hotel he represents have been spending a decent amount on art for many years without it doing anything special for their property. They’ve realized that the money could be used not only to tell an interesting narrative about their properties but also to make them more memorable.”

Long before art was used as a marketing strategy, it it was utilized by hotel owners for function and added justification to their ‘luxury’ status. Brand Strategist Jean-Noël Kapferer published a paper in 1997 in which presented the semiotics of the word “luxury” as “Luxury defines beauty; it is art applied to functional items,” which emphasize that luxury products as an art form brings more psychological satisfaction, like esteem on the owner, than functional utility.

It is a bold statement piece and one that reflects a trend among top hotels worldwide to fill their spaces with original art. They are acquiring paintings and sculptures that would not disgrace a public gallery and which, even if you can’t afford to stay there, you can see free of charge or for the price of a coffee in the bar.

Macau has even commissioned a Cultural Affairs Bureau, with a Cultural Events Department dedicated to (according to its head) “luring tourists in with top-notch art”.

As time pass by and more trends shaped the industry, luxurious experiences are tantamount to every guest’s ‘hope and dreams’, as Michman and Mazze phrased it. According to their publication, it is an attempt to reach self-actualization and self-fulfillment through greater knowledge, appreciation of beauty, spiritual sophistication, peace, art, culture and aesthetics.

This notion further made art and hospitality subjective, as guests from different parts of the globe have different ethnical belonging, culture of origin, educational background and personal experience.

Hence, hotels saw this as a chance to showcase and derive the luxury experience brought in by art, to showcasing local artist talent, culture and identity. It’s only when you remember how definitively “un-local” and bland luxury hotels used to be that you realize how much has changed, Mark Jones, an editor and travel-writer from The Independent expressed.

Taiwan’s Mandarin Oriental marketing executive Michael Hobson, says the company wants to offer a “contemporary and definitively local experience at our properties”.

“Now, hotels are willing to take more of a risk. That is what is making art in hotels exciting right now. Our clients are asking for a diversity of art that we wouldn’t have expected a couple of years ago,” Toledano notes.

He adds that hotels now have the “desire to ask more of the artwork to make their property unique, rather than resembling many others.”

Some hotels want to establish a sense of place through their art, though not necessarily through local artists. The art they choose to acquire and display depict their culture and traditions through paintings of events, materials and national symbols.

Jeremy King, a hotel owner in Mayfair, London says owners who prefer investing in original art is exposed to the danger of “using the art to attract attention, rather than to enhance the experience. You find that a lot of it becomes too narcissistic, as opposed to harmonious for the clients’ experience.”

In the end, Jones notes that it is probably “the evolving taste of the super-rich, in turn driven by the Saatchi effect, where work that once seemed so alien suddenly became covetable and marketable. It could be the bohemian influence of boutique hotels. Or maybe the displaying of art is simply an easy, and relatively cheap, way to add some much needed interest and personality to your public spaces. Maybe parents will now start encouraging their kids to give up the law degree and head to art college instead. The supply of patrons has never been healthier.”