Must-See Art Hotels in Asia

Aspiring art collectors who are just starting out may already have a fairly clear idea of what sort of pieces they like. Oftentimes, however, the stark white spaces of art galleries, while providing optimum viewing conditions and ample resources for getting to know the work of a particular artist, are less than helpful in terms of giving you hints about how an entire art collection hangs together — or not — within an actual living space.

That’s where a trip to an art-savvy hotel — even if you’re not planning to stay the night — may prove to be inspiring. The combination of well-considered interior design schemes and a carefully curated art collection throughout the lobby, restaurants, and public spaces of the hotel can show even seasoned collectors how to balance the display of their artworks against an existing interior scheme.

Palace Hotel Tokyo

Palace Hotel Tokyo F Yamabuki Room Terrace

Let’s start with one of the grande dames of the Tokyo hotel scene, the Palace Hotel Tokyo. Through its art collection, the Palace has chosen to create a more tranquil, integrated atmosphere that makes for a respectful complement to the water and lush greenery of the Imperial Palace compound that adjoins it. Its sizable collection of 720 artworks, organized around the theme of “The Palace Garden: Inheritance and Innovation,” evokes the virtues of Japanese art without insisting too obviously on an exotic image of Japan.

“Echoes-Crystallization”, the stunning centerpiece hanging over the reception counter by Shinji Ohmaki, depicts densely woven floral motifs in monochrome white, made out of artificial marble, crystal powder, and corrective fluid — apparently a sort of memorial to Japan’s endangered indigenous species. Elsewhere, gently abstract variations on natural patterns and motifs by Huang Yuan Qing, Masumi Nakaoka, Masahito Nakayama and Satoshi Uchiumi avoid the trap of getting too gaudy and conspicuous in a five-star luxury hotel, opting instead for a sober, subdued palette of colors in gentle gradations. Combined with the sleek, translucent interior scheme by Terry McGinnity of London’s GA Design International, the Palace Hotel Tokyo’s art collection is a finely judged exercise in elegance without unnecessary splendor.

Correction fluid and crystal powder were crystallized to create a depiction of endangered species of Japanese flowers. These vanishing blooms embody my wish for viewers to re-visit and re-examine the trifling aspects of their daily lives. Representing the desire to create a new world, this piece is a reminder of the sights and sounds that are disappearing from our lives as society develops.

Correction fluid and crystal powder were crystallized to create a depiction of endangered species of Japanese flowers. These vanishing blooms embody my wish for viewers to re-visit and re-examine the trifling aspects of their daily lives. Representing the desire to create a new world, this piece is a reminder of the sights and sounds that are disappearing from our lives as society develops.

Humble House, Taipei

Other recent top end hotels have chosen to take a more deliberately modern, progressive approach to their collection. Designed by Hirsch Bedner Associates and newly opened in December 2013, Humble House in Taipei has also decided to take its local cultural context as a point of departure without becoming overly ethnic “Chinese” about it. Its dedicated art gallery features a playful piece by Italian artist Paola Pivi called “Crazy Ball”, made of miniature designer chairs highlighted with special lighting effects that strikes an ironic balance between art and interior design. Elsewhere, local Taiwanese artist Yang Yongliang has created four photographic pieces that cunningly conceal fragments of Taipei’s urban cityscapes within what appears to be flowers in bloom.

Unusually even for a hotel setting, Humble House also houses Wu Chi-Tsung’s “Landscape in the Mist”, an onscreen video installation that uses digital technology to recreate the swirling mist and fluid lines of traditional Chinese literati landscapes in ink, and Charwei Tsai’s “Ah”, a video piece that documents an underwater calligraphic performance. These two choices demonstrate that although often eschewed in favor of painting and sculpture, video pieces with the right aesthetic can also complement an elegant interior.

Hotel Eclat, Beijing

Meanwhile, Beijing’s Hotel Eclat, which opened in March 2013, shows that a more brash, maximalist approach to incorporating art into a hotel interior can pay off well. Situated within the sleek glass-and-steel pyramid complex called Parkview Green with intentional echoes of the grandeur of the Louvre, Hotel Eclat’s art holdings boast contrasts that are bold and unflinching — Chen Wenling’s “red boy” sculptures next to a tongue-in-cheek Andy Warhol’s print “The Giant Panda”, for instance.

Although the collection, which belongs to Hong Kong-born hotel owner George Wong, does reflect a penchant for big names like Chinese superstar painter Zeng Fanzhi, this is also toned down and balanced out by vintage furniture pieces by the likes of Tom Dixon, Philippe Starck, Arne Jacobson, and Maarten Baas. Other daring touches include Jitka Kamencova Skuhava’s ceiling piece made of hand blown red and blue glass, and even a bronze sculpture by Salvador Dali repainted in gold and emblazoned with a red LED heart.

Artworks in Hotel Eclat. Salvador Dali's gold-painted bronze sculpture in the foreground, with Chen Wenling's "red boy" sculpture and Andy Warhol's "The Giant Panda" in the background.

Artworks in Hotel Eclat. Salvador Dali’s gold-painted bronze sculpture in the foreground, with Chen Wenling’s “red boy” sculpture and Andy Warhol’s “The Giant Panda” in the background.

Ovolo Southside, Hong Kong

Not everyone can pull off such an extravagant coup in their own home. If you’re looking for a more industrial-chic look for your own loft-style pad, then maybe the newly opened (June 2014) Ovolo Southside in Hong Kong will give you the best pointers. Billed as “Hong Kong’s first New York-style warehouse conversion Design Hotel” and situated in the up-and-coming art and creative nexus of Wong Chuk Hang, the hotel’s art collection leans towards colorful, Pop-inflected pieces that provide a vibrant counterpoint to the utilitarian, heavy duty steel fixtures, exposed brick, and burnished wood surfaces. Local collective Parent’s Parents and LA-based Cyrcle have created ironic murals of manual laborers that pay tribute to the history of the area as an industrial zone. Like Taipei’s Humble House, Ovolo have chosen to install a 18-meter video LED wall in the ground floor gallery that will screen works by a rotating roster of artists, proof that the centerpiece of a large public space doesn’t necessarily have to be a show-stopping, stationary painting or sculpture.

The 18-meter long video LED wall in the ground floor gallery of Ovolo Southside in Hong Kong.

The 18-meter long video LED wall in the ground floor gallery of Ovolo Southside in Hong Kong.


About Darryl Wee

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Darryl Wee is head of visual arts for Asia at BLOUIN ARTINFO. He has previously written about contemporary art for Artforum, Art Asia Pacific, LEAP, Bijutsu Techo, the Japan Times, and the Wall Street Journal, and translated catalogues and essays on Gutai, Makoto Aida, Tadasu Takamine, Koki Tanaka and many other Japanese artists.

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