Chinese hotels open a new window on Chinese art
Riding the wave of the nation’s booming art scene, hotels in China are getting ever more serious about art.
They don't just hang up a watercolor painting or frame calligraphy; these hotels, mostly in big cities, curate art tours, organize exhibitions and even operate private art galleries.
Jumeirah art tour
Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel Shanghai, the Dubai-based brand’s only hotel in China, recently launched what they call “China’s first lobby art tour program.”
It’s essentially a self-guided audio tour around the hotel’s lobby, which showcases more than 40 art pieces, including “Portrait of Chairman Mao” by celebrated contemporary artist Chen Yifei (陈逸飞) and “Portrait of Iron-Crutch Li” by legendary painter Qi Baishi (齐白石).
“We’re the first hotel in China to organize such a lobby art tour with verbal explanations,” said Jasmine Ye, assistant marketing communications manager at the hotel. “We hope this is a way for our guests to get to know more about Chinese art.”
Most of the collections belong to Jumeirah Shanghai’s owner Dai Zhikang (戴志康), an avid art collector and a wealthy Chinese entrepreneur.
Guests can borrow iPod nanos as audio players, which are pre-loaded with information on the artworks and how they meld with the hotel’s feng shui.
Unlike the 14-month-old hotel’s other amenities, the tour, according to Ye, is available to anyone who’s interested in Chinese art. Non-Jumeirah guests can borrow the audio players if they present valid identification.
More art hotels around the country
The Jumeirah in Shanghai is not alone in its art dream. More and more hotels in China are using art as their unique selling point
Hotel Indigo Shanghai, which opened in December 2010 on the South Bund, operates an “Art at Indigo” project. The InterContinental brand reels in a Shanghai-based young artist community, YISI Art Saloon, to curate a new art show every three months at the public space.
When I pay to stay in a hotel, I am also paying for an experience different than home, so I would like to see something different, and I can bring home some stories as well.
-- Jenny Lo, traveler and marketing specialist
Homa Chateau, a 46-room hotel in Guilin, stands inside a 5.5-square-kilometer, RMB 700 million park, which is filled with 200 artworks from more than 100 artists.
Upmarket business hotels are also joining the show. The Langham Place near Beijing Capital Airport has wowed the local media with its massive art collection.
The 372-room property houses 40 artworks, plus another 30 in its private art gallery, which occupies about 30 square meters. The management team refreshes the collection every three months.
“If I could choose my hotel while traveling -- either for business or leisure -- I’d prefer to check in to an artistic hotel,” said Shanghainese traveler Peggy Xu.
“But I’d want them to be in the historic and central part of a city, instead of the newly developed zones, because for travelers, [that’s] more interesting,” continued Xu.
A popular trend or a niche market?
Jenny Lo, general manager of marketing consultancy CatchOn, said she also prefers hotels with a more artistic ambience.
“When I pay to stay in a hotel, I am also paying for an experience different than home, so I would like to see something different, and I can bring home some stories as well,” said Lo, whose company represents a number of travel and lifestyle brands in China.
Lo pointed out that travelers who tend to go for art/design hotels do not want “cookie cutter” hotels -- the mainstream chains that promise guests “consistency.”
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Although the art wind is blowing strong, Lo thinks art and design hotels are still in the minority in China.
“If you look at the new hotel openings, the majority are still big international hotel brands.
“I think it is still a niche market,” added Lo.