We all have mediums in which we tell the world who we are. A writer has their words. A painter has their canvas. A designer has their silhouettes. From the viewpoint of an observer who has never read our words or seen our paintings, we still communicate our essence in many other mediums. The way we walk, the expression on our faces, the shoes we wear, the things we carry. A building, or a hotel, does very much the same.
The question is: how does a hotel communicate self-expression without the self? When a hotel assumes a persona, how they tell the world who they are comes with a similar set of indicators. The food they like, the people they attract, and notably, the art that adorns their walls. Like the clothes we choose to wear, the art in a hotel is an extension of a place’s personality. It shows us what they stand for, it is an expression of its soul.
As soon as I met The Londoner in Leicester Square, I began to piece together its persona. The five-stars told me it was fancy. The high-end tech told me it was modern. The small binoculars placed in my room told me it was cheeky. The crowd that buzzed throughout the lobby told me it was popular. The bed so comfy I slept through my alarm told me it was nurturing. The eclectic art that hung throughout told me it had style. I spoke to Krishma Singh Dear, Head of Design at The Londoner, to understand the importance of a hotel’s art collection, the value it brings to guests, and of course, how social media factors into it all.
NS: How do you visualize a hotel’s art collection before it comes to life—where do you start?
KSD: Art is the primary medium in how a hotel’s personality is communicated to its guests and how it endeavors to be portrayed in society. We wanted The Londoner’s art collection to reference the past yet be forward-thinking like the city it’s located in. We wanted it to be glamorous yet inclusive, a nod to our London wit.
NS: What story is the art at The Londoner trying to tell?
KSD: The collection is supposed to feel as if it were the private collection of a global traveler whose roots belong in London’s West End. While the roster of artists is international, most artists featured are British. We have works from various renowned and emerging artists, showcasing an abundance of creative talent. London is a decidedly inclusive city, and we wanted to demonstrate that The Londoner is very much part of the city’s fabric. The city’s rich history is referenced throughout the property’s art but with a modern sensibility. For instance, the sun and moon are recurring themes that refer to Wyld’s Great Globe—a major attraction of Leicester Square in the 19th century. In the Trafalgar Suites, there are bespoke pieces of the Battle of Trafalgar. There are modern re-interpretations of historic British characters throughout the building, from Horatio Nelson to Henry VIII’s wives whose chopped portraits can be found in The Residence powder rooms.
NS: Where did you source the artwork for The Londoner?
KSD: We worked closely with James Robertson, who curated artworks for the collection from local artists and galleries. We were honored to work directly with several London artists, such as Marc Quinn and Edd Pearman. We also sourced art from several London galleries, including Cristea Roberts Gallery, where we procured works from world-renowned artists such as Antony Gormley, Julian Opie, Idris Khan, and Michael Hoppen Gallery for the brilliant artworks by Tim Walker. International artists are also included in the collection, such as Andrea Torres Balaguer from Spain, Stefan Gunnesch from Germany, Tina Lechner from Austria, and Donovan Davis from Canada.
NS: How do you put yourself in a guest’s shoes when curating the collection?
KSD: We wanted to curate a collection that offered a unique and sometimes witty sense of history based on the hotel’s location. Leicester Square has always been a destination for entertainment and fashion. The artworks curated for The Londoner attempt to reveal little secrets and fables of the hotel’s origins—digging deep through the surface of today’s modern streets and squares back to the site’s origins and Roman roots. We also wanted to include the guests in the artwork themselves. Our framed mirrors are thoughtfully placed throughout the collection to capture a guests’ gaze. They become ever-changing and fleeting portraits of those who are now creating tomorrow’s history.
NS: How can an art collection increase a hotel’s experiential value to the guest?
KSD: A quote by James Robertson pinpoints it very succinctly, “A great hotel is a conduit of culture. The essence of culture is art. A great hotel is an arbiter of taste and sophistication, transcending trends and fashion. It elevates and stimulates all senses by allowing guests a unique and memorable experience that can often be life-enriching in the most positive ways. The art collection for The Londoner synergizes with the design and architecture of the hotel, its location and history, and its place today in the heart of London, one of the world’s most beautiful and exhilarating cities”.
NS: How do you measure that value?
KSD: The exact value is hard to measure, but the impression and uplift it provides to the guest’s experience give the art value in a hotel. I would like to think that the artwork in The Londoner makes the stay memorable and becomes a talking point, which therefore adds to The Londoner’s brand value.
NS: How do you differentiate between artwork in-room versus public spaces?
KSD: I feel that art in public spaces should either be immersive, grab the customer’s attention, or help tell the space’s story. The in-room experience, in my view, should still be part of the narrative but do so in a more restful way. We have Edd Pearman prints in our bedrooms on a floating frame above the bed. These detailed line drawings are the artist’s imagination of what we discovered during the hotel’s basement excavation.
NS: How does social media factor into your selection—if at all?
KSD: Pieces should resonate with our customers and make them want to photograph the art–whether because of the way they are hung or because they are immersive. Interestingly enough, we are actually planning to move our Antony Gormley piece so that it is positioned in a more social-media-friendly place. We want our guests to be able to interact with the artwork in a way that they would not be able to in a museum.
NS: What are some of your favorite pieces in the collection?
KSD: There are so many pieces that I love, and they constantly change. I am a fan of the colorful set photography by Carolina Mizrahi that we have in our Penthouse Suite. I also love the immersive artwork in The Residence, a hand-painted mural by En Viu that feels like you have escaped to a surreal magical garden on a midsummer night.