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spa lobby at the W Hotel South Beach
Photo: Courtesy of W Hotel South Beach

How This Hotel is Reimagining the Art Gallery Experience

The W South Beach is redefining the relationship between hospitality and the art world.

When you turn off Collins Avenue in Miami Beach, Florida onto the curved driveway at The W Hotel South Beach, you’ll notice a few familiar characters. Sculpted in bronze, then painted white, artist Tom Sachs created life-size sculptures of Hello Kitty, My Melody, and Miffy. The piece, titled Codependent Fountain Tableau, is the first of many contemporary artworks hotel visitors will come across during their stay. W South Beach recently completed a $30 million renovation, and one of the many updates included an overhauled art collection. Curated by W South Beach part-owner Aby Rosen, the collection includes original pieces by Andy Warhol. The entire collection, valued at around $100 million, is on display throughout the hotel's lobby.

Art in hotels is nothing new. “The idea of displaying artwork in hotels has been around since the 19th century when grand hotels like London's Savoy Hotel commissioned artworks and hosted artists like Monet,” says Emily Clare, an art educator. “La Colombe d’Or in the south of France has amassed a collection of treasures over the years, displaying the likes of Picasso and Miró.” But lately, hotels have pushed the boundary of what it means to be a place that displays art. W Hotel South Beach offers visitors the gallery experience without the traditional restricted hours. The hotel’s commitment to art has become extremely important as of late. Art Basel Miami Beach is bigger than ever before, forcing hotels to find ways to stand out amongst the crowd of ever-growing competitors. Now that people see the products they buy and the places they stay as a reflection of their identity, hotels are using art to build their brand identity rather than just as ornamentation.

A Point of Differentiation

“More hotels are investing in their own art collections and artists in general because art, especially contemporary art, is trending,” says Reyne Hirsch, co-founder of Patrick Jones Gallery in Dallas. “Guests stay, they take photos of the cool art, post on their social media platforms. It's free advertising for the hotel and, of course, for the artist.” Additionally, because W South Beach offers high-end amenities, it’s important for every other facet of the hotel to be up to par. “You have these beautiful luxury hotels that have exceptional offerings, and the brand needs to match their amenities through their walls, furnishings, and events,” adds Karen Aronian, an education designer for brands and boutique hotels.

Aside from providing a great social media photo op, hotels also use art to enhance a visitor’s stay. “By displaying art in a hotel, rather than in a gallery, it gives guests the immersive experience of being able to view the pieces at their leisure in the comfort of a room or lounge. The piece has the opportunity to transform the space,” says Clare.

Supporting Artists

Previously, galleries and museums served as the primary space for artists to show their work, but more hotels are now working to support up-and-coming talent. Displaying the work of artists creates a sense of place and helps guests connect with the hotel on a deeper level, Clare explains. It’s also beneficial to the artists who collaborate with the hotel. “It opens the doors to new potential collectors rather than having to wait for their next gallery show to get exposure,” says Hirsch. “Their art will be seen by hundreds of people every day.”

outdoor exhibition at art basel miami beach 2023

Artist Pilar Zeta's interactive installation “Future Transmutation."

Photo: Pilar Zeta

Artist \u200bPilar Zeta standing inside the site where her art installation was exhibited.

Zeta standing inside the site where her installation was exhibited for Art Basel Miami Beach 2023.

Photo: Pilar Zeta

For Art Basel Miami Beach, W Hotels and Mambo Creatives collaborated with artists Pilar Zeta and Miranda Makaroff to explore the themes of transition, transformation, freedom, and fluidity in two large-scale installations. Zeta’s installation, “Future Transmutation,” was a site-specific, interactive sculptural garden that was open to the public as well as hotel guests. Makaroff debuted “An Amphibious Love Affair,” which also interacted with the environment in which it was set. There were neon-embellished cabanas, pool floats that depicted ocean creatures, and exclusive pool towels. “This [installation] exposes my work to so many more people,” says Zeta. “With galleries and museums, people who aren’t used to being around art can feel intimidated. This allows everyone to be able to experience art in a public space that isn’t too overwhelming.”

On-Site Exhibitions and Events

In addition to the physical art installations by Zeta and Makaroff, W South Beach also hosted Surface Magazine and Polygon’s Web3 art bungalow during Art Basel. The space sparked conversations around the metaverse, fashion, and sustainability. “There are so many ways to bring the world into a luxury property,” says Aronian. When brands are brave enough to do installations and interdisciplinary art events, they’re giving their clients and potential clientele an integrated art experience. “You want to offer guests what other people don’t provide. It raises a brand’s cache.”

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