By Scott Mayerowitz, The Associated Press
August 5, 2012
Hotel rooms once were just a place to shower, sleep or maybe indulge in breakfast in bed. Now they're also spots to pick up a souvenir — we don't mean the towels.
Do you like that painting over the bed? How about that drawing next to the TV? At hotels around the globe, guests now can purchase the artwork in their rooms.
Hotels for the last few years have invited local artists to decorate hallways, lobbies and other public spaces so the hotels can remove the cookie-cutter feel by offering guests a sense of the city or town where they're staying. Now, lodgings are taking that partnership one step further and turning bedrooms into mini-salesrooms.
The recently opened Omni Dallas hotel features more than 6,500 original pieces of art from 150 local artists in its guest rooms and public spaces, which helps distinguish it from other hotels. This also gives guests the option of taking a bit of Texas culture home with them.
The Lancaster Arts Hotel, in Pennsylvania, sells art — and even some furniture — found in guest rooms, its own gallery and common spaces, all from local artists and craftsmen.
The Principe Forte Dei Marmi in Tuscany, Italy, hosts an artist in residence for several months. Guests meet and interact with the artist and then can custom order a piece of art. The guests can even handpick the materials to be used in sculptures.
Besides Omni, some other chain hotels also are getting into the art business.
Guests at the Renaissance Arts Hotel in New Orleans, a Marriott property, can ask the staff how to buy the various pieces of artwork, such as the glass sculptures in the bathroom (which go for about $300). Each room features an original picture. The hotel also can refer guests to the artist or gallery if they are interested in other works.
Guests at the new Conrad New York can't take home the hotel's signature piece of art, Sol Lewitt's "Loopy Doopy (Blue and Purple)" which fills 13 stories of the lobby. But each room has a tile representing part of the work. The gift shop sells the same tiles for $95.
Sherry Quinn, of Lisbon, Md., near Baltimore, recently bought the painting "Orange Moon Over Lemmon Avenue" while attending a security-related convention at the Dallas Omni.
"It was the most unlikely place I would think I would purchase art," Quinn said. But the nighttime scene of the city just called to her. "I just felt like there was something magical about the painting."
Quinn had three days to debate buying the 32-inch-square work. When she spoke to the gift shop staff — the hotel has a digital catalog of all its artwork there — she learned that the artist, Kelly Megert, worked there part-time. The next morning, she met Megert and spent $350 on the painting.
"I got to talk to her about how she came about painting it," Quinn said. "The fact that it was a local artist kind of clinched the deal for me."
Ed Netzhammer, managing director of the Dallas Omni, notes that his hotel has "more art than a lot of the galleries and museums around the country."
"It makes it fun and interesting and adds a whole different level of energy to the hotel," Netzhammer said.
Bjorn Hanson, dean of New York University's hospitality school, said any savings hotels see from not having to furnish rooms is lost by the added liability and staff needed to rotate the art.
The push for local art, he said, is coming from younger guests who don't want to see the same thing in a hotel in New York and San Francisco.
"This age group has a special appreciation for local sensitivity," Hanson said. "That would be things like helping local artists, helping local growers whether that's produce or bakeries or wine producers."
So leave a little extra room in that suitcase this summer — you never know what will be coming home with you from vacation.
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