Boutique Hotels “Gotta Have Art” To Stand Out In China Market

Growing Number Of Hotels Employ Curators, Display Artwork By Top Chinese Artists

The Opposite House, in Beijing's Sanlitun neighborhood

The Opposite House, in Beijing’s Sanlitun neighborhood

With the number of hotels under construction in China skyrocketing in the last few years, and virtually all of the world’s top chains digging into Beijing and Shanghai for the long haul, one trend that seems to only be picking up steam is that of boutique hotels attempting to fill a niche by stocking a nicely curated supply of Chinese contemporary art. While few can do opulence quite like Shanghai’s Peace Hotel or the Fairmont Beijing, in an effort to brand themselves as a place for the hip and worldly, boutique hotels like Yi House, The Opposite House, and Langham Place have found that Chinese art can be the missing ingredient.

Jing Daily has previously profiled Yi House, a small “art hotel” in Beijing’s 798 art district, which owner Shauna Liu says is designed to emulate the slower pace of European life and the mix of traditional and ultra-modern that defines Asian cities like Hong Kong. Since opening last year, Liu has tried to integrated Yi House into the broader arts environment that surrounds it, recently announcing that Yi House would be teaming up with ChART Contemporary on a “monthly Insiders Guide” created to introduce guests to Chinese contemporary art and the 798 district. Though the roster of artists stocked by Yi House can’t quite measure up to The Opposite House, owner Liu regularly brings in new pieces and artists, keeping the vibe of Yi House as airy as a well-lit gallery. The Langham Place hotel, near Beijing Capital International Airport, while not as much of a boutique as Yi House, takes a similar messaging approach, calling itself “an art gallery masquerading as a hotel” and featuring exhibitions curated by local art experts.

The Opposite House, operated by Hong Kong hotel powerhouse Swire, is at once similar and quite different than Yi House and Langham Place, with an expertly curated mix of Chinese contemporary artists that is geared more towards complementing the hotel, rather than acting as its single defining feature. Designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma (who more recently created the interior of Shang Xia’s inaugural boutique in Shanghai), the Opposite House is arguably the most active and engaged of China’s art hotels, and regularly hosts exhibitions loaned by local galleries like F2 and Red Gate, as well as solo exhibitions by local artists and independent film showings. As Philip Tinari, editor-in-chief of the Chinese art magazine Leap, told the Global Times this week, “Turning the central space over to different galleries has made for an interesting succession of installations; my only regret is that these often clash with the actually very nice ‘permanent’ art on display in the lobby.”

As Tinari added, Yi House may have more direct competition from the Opposite House sooner than it might like: “Swire Hotels, the Opposite House parent company, has been particularly smart about playing the art card, a trend that will expand with the opening of a new location near 798.”

However, it’s not just lesser-known hotels that want to tap into the booming Chinese contemporary art market. Late last year, the French luxury hotel chain Le Meridien announced a partnership with Chinese artists Yan Lei and Chen Wenbo in which Yan and Chen would not only provide artwork for the hotel chain but would also become the first Chinese inductees into Le Meridien’s “LM100″ creative community.

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Art & Auction, Culture, Hotels & Accommodation