Amsterdam, Netherlands: The Winston
It is located in the Red Light District on the oldest street in Amsterdam, the Winston. The previous owner, the late Frans Verlinden, imprinted a bohemian atmosphere in the 1980s and ’90s, with “hookers, journalists, filmmakers, but most of all, artists” as frequent guests, explains manager Donald Kauwoh. Verlinden spearheaded the art-hotel trend and hired artist Aldert Mantje to select colleagues to decorate rooms and install temporary exhibits. While it started out being fairly avant-garde — guests may have encountered dead leaves and even, possibly, an animal corpse on display — the hotel has mellowed somewhat in recent years.
Singapore: The New Majestic
Loh Lik Peng collaborated with the Asian Art Options collective to find the right artists who can paint the walls of the 30 hotel rooms who was built from four Chinatown shop houses. Notable Rooms: Marker-and-acrylic murals by Sandra Lee in the Cheshire Suite conjure up a tweaked nursery-book charm; in one, a small red-haired girl flies toward a gigantic turtle. Justin Lee riffs off pop culture in three of the rooms. The one titled Da Jie (“Big Sister”) features Mickey Mouse ears containing double-happiness symbols.
Cape Town, South Africa: Daddy Long Legs
The poets, artists, and musicians behind Daddy Long Legs encourage guests to interact with the surroundings. Kim Stern’s Please Do Not Disturb has 6 microphones and you are encouraged even while taking a shower as the hotel is above a music store.
Nice, France: The Windsor
Inspired by a 1987 Belgian exhibition of artist-decorated rooms, Bernard Redolfi commissioned one artist a year to transform one of the Windsor’s rooms. The hotel is now owned by his niece Odile Payen-Redolfi, who continues the tradition. So far, 25 of the 57 rooms have received the treatment.
Notable Rooms: French photographer Raymond Hains lived in Room 40 for three years; when he left in 1995, he installed a portrait of himself taken there, amid his clutter. In Room 65, Ben Vautier spray painted phrases in French (such as “I dreamed that I fell in love with the stranger in Room 17″) in red, yellow, and blue on the walls. Claudio Parmiggiani resized Room 57 from a standard rectangle into a cube, put a white underlit bed in the center, and covered the walls and ceiling with gold leaf.
Toronto, Ontario: The Gladstone
Six years ago, the Zeidler family, including architect Eberhard and his daughter Christina, bought the building and renovated it. They kept the Victorian plaster moldings and wooden floors, but not much else. Christina, a film-and-video artist in her own right, commissioned local talents to design the 37 rooms, added film screenings, and set up temporary art exhibitions in the hallways.
Notable Rooms: In Faux Naturelle, Allyson Mitchell created a psychedelic fake-fur tapestry featuring nymphs. Snapshot, by Christina, plays with the idea of a forest growing out of furniture: A larger-than-life print of a nearby park aflame with autumn leaves is mounted above the headboard in a Plexiglas frame and folded like an accordion.
In 2005, Volkswagen hired marketing firm Eventlabs to redo Copenhagen’s Park Hotel for the launch of the car company’s Fox model. Eventlabs held a contest to select not only the artists who would create the rooms, but also the hotel staff. Many of the winning concepts were from international creative firms whose designs mix slickness (honed through their work for Nike and MTV) with the aesthetics of graffiti and graphic novels.
Notable Rooms: Sleep Seasons, by Australian firm Rinzen, has a tent with a mattress inside; murals of the four seasons are on the walls. Monday, by Norwegian illustrator Kim Hiorthøy, isn’t one for obsessive-compulsives.
San Francisco, California: Hotel des Arts
Manager Hero Nakatani hired local gallery owner John Doffing to curate Hotel des Arts‘ first exhibition in 2004 and then had Doffing find artists ranging from graffiti taggers to professional illustrators to redesign half of the hotel’s 51 rooms; other curators took over from there. Paintings by emerging artists are exhibited in the hallways.
Notable Rooms: Jet Martinez was inspired by the imagery and colors of his native Mexico when he painted a modern fairy story — with a glittering moon and a silver- and gold-leaf forest full of frogs and flowers — on the walls of Room 208. In Room 411, by Dave Kinsey, a man’s head and torso cover an entire corner, and tribal graphics are drawn on bedside tables and next to door locks.