By Coco Mault
Remember when airline food alone took the brunt of most travel industry jokes? How things have changed. And now, with the rising number of boutique hotels, it’s hard to even make fun of bad hotel art anymore. Instead of craft-fair eyesores, canvasses covered in thick metallic paint swirls or prints of blurry watercolor landscapes, designer hotels are now featuring art to rival those in any contemporary art museum.
The Twin Cities’ posh and boutique hotels have their own impressive art on display as well, and they are well worth checking out.
The Graves Hotel in downtown Minneapolis has embellished its lobby areas so finely, that some of it may go unnoticed as architectural design rather than fine art. In the main floor lobby the walls don’t have individual pieces hanging in frames, but they are completely covered in ironwork by Yabo Pushelberg.
A central sculptural piece near the elevators is rather stunning, and, just like the iron work, it reaches from the floor to the ceiling. Artist Dennis Lin used woodblocks to create his sculpture. Some of the woodblocks swivel out, their corners jutting from the other blocks creating a textured, blunt surface. Some of the blocks have a round scoop taken out, and it appears that no two blocks are meant to be the same. It’s an impressive piece and coordinates nicely with the small ironwork squares by Pushelberg. The fourth floor has a lobby as well, just outside of Cosmos Lounge. Once again, the Graves has found a piece to cover an entire wall, and Hirotoshi Saw’s artwork really is impressive. At first it looks as though the wall is covered in a tangle of deer antlers, but upon closer inspection, the material appears too fragile to be bone. And it is fragile — the pieces, which look like they could be papier-mâché branches, are attached and hanging from one another with clear fishing line or thread.
Aloft Hotel has a lobby fit for a king, if a king wanted a 21st-century rec room, that is. There is a cozy, sunken seating area, but also a full bar (which is exactly what we want to see immediately after a flight, no?) and near the bar is a pool table, more places to sit, and a wall dedicated to artwork. This collection is not permanent; artists are rotated every few weeks, the pieces are available to purchase. It’s a nice touch when at your home away from home. Just don’t switch the bar out for something else.
To the untrained eye, Le Meridien Chambers could be mistaken for an art gallery before it’s seen as a hotel. The lobby walls are covered in distinctive, entrancing pieces, such as Evan Penny’s (Old) No One-In Particular #6, Series 2, which is a larger-than-life, three-dimensional bust of an old man. The piece forces viewers to be up close and personal just due to its size. The amazing thing is that the realism is not diminished at close proximity, and suddenly it’s as though you’ve met an honest-to-goodness giant. Full-bodied giants by Marin Honert anchor the other end of the lobby’s hallway.
Local art is for sale in the hotel’s gift shop, including local comic artist King Mini’s Scum Bags (full disclosure, I own three of the trashy little pillows). Looking for a smaller souvenir? Get a surprise from the Art-O-Mat, a converted cigarette machine that doles out a pocket-sized piece of original art for only $5. Part of the fun is handing in a fiver at the front desk for a big Art-O-Mat token. For regulars, the Chambers has also dedicated a large portion of their first floor to the Burnet Gallery, a contemporary art gallery that features a constant exhibition schedule, and over 200 pieces of original art work from the private collection of the hotel’s owner Ralph Burnet.
601 First Avenue North
900 Washington Ave S
Le Meridien Chambers
901 Hennepin Avenue