The peaceful study area in the extraordinary bedroom of The Silo Hotel penthouse overlooks Lion’s Head and Signal Hill. Picture: The Silo Hotel
The peaceful study area in the extraordinary bedroom of The Silo Hotel penthouse overlooks Lion’s Head and Signal Hill. Picture: The Silo Hotel

5 art-themed hotels that blend culture and history with luxurious living

By Sacha van Niekerk Time of article published Dec 5, 2019

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Travelling boasts the chance to immerse yourself in another country’s rich history and culture. 

As you venture through unknown cities, squeezing through packed alleyways and brushing shoulders with locals, you become part of the town you're in, learning the language and eating the food. But, that’s not the only way to absorb your surroundings.

You could visit local hideouts or perhaps even a museum, but nothing compares to staying at a hotel that doubles as an art gallery or museum. 

From inside South African borders to beyond sweeping expanses of blue ocean, these art hotels from around the world are liberal in their historical and cultural offerings: 

The Silo Hotel - Cape Town, South Africa

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Rich in both beauty and history, this hotel is located at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town. 

The grain silo was the tallest building in Sub-Saharan Africa at 57m when it was first opened in 1921. Today, the historic building has been re-imagined by industrial designer Thomas Heatherwick of Heatherwick Studio in London. Adding interest to Cape Town’s ever expanding skyline, it’s most striking feature the glossy exterior. With expansive glazing that reflects its surroundings, the geometric panels of glass swell through their concrete frame, as though inflated. 

Set in the original grain elevator, the broad glass windows boast stunning views of Table Bay Harbour and majestic mountainous surroundings. Nevertheless, the main attraction of this luxe hotel is that it offers visitors a quintessentially South African experience by it infusing visits with art, history and culture. 

The plush, individually decorated rooms were designed and decorated by the owner of the Royal Portfolio, Liz Biden. Adding her touch of magic to every space, she blended modern and antique furnishings with industrial accents to create an eclectic feel. The stunning decor in every room is perfectly complemented with a selection of art hand-picked by Biden.

Apart from the adjacent silos which houses the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, there is also The Vault. Serving as The Silo Hotel’s small and exclusive art gallery, it’s located in the private parking entrance on basement level P3. The concept behind The Vault was to make use of the unique space and to provide a link between the not-for-profit art featured in the museum and the local galleries in Cape Town. Each year, the hotel works with a different local gallery and showcases two exhibitions annually.

According to their website, the purpose is to showcase established and up and coming African artists. The Silo Hotel retain one piece from each exhibition thereby building up a collection that documents the evolution of their journey into the world of contemporary African art. 

Hotel Arts - Barcelona, Spain

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Hotel Arts is situated on a stretch of beach that faces the Port Olímpic marina. From extensive patios and gardens, to its architecture and style being seamlessly integrated into the city, the breath-taking location offers magnificent views of both the vibrant city and the Mediterranean.

Construction began in 1991, with its unique design revolutionising the city’s urban landscape at a historic moment of transformation. Over two decades later, the design of Hotel Arts remains a significant reason as to why this landmark hotel is an unmistakable icon of Barcelona.

They aren’t called Hotel Arts for nothing. Art is the hotel’s common thread: in every room and every hall you’ll find an original piece of art, all by Spanish artists, many of them Catalan. Examples include outstanding works like the impressive sculpture by designer Jaime Tresserra, located outside the penthouses; two breathtaking oil paintings by Ràfols-Casamada, on display at the reception for groups and penthouses; and the outdoor works by the masterful Manolo Valdés.

Benesse House - Naoshima, Japan

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Benesse House is based on the concept of coexistence among nature, architecture, and art. The Museum, which incorporates a hotel, opened in 1992, followed by additional lodging facilities. 

Contemporary art is showcased not only within the Museum galleries, but also in all parts of the buildings and surrounding area. Guests can engage with artworks everywhere they go, digest the experience at leisure in their rooms, or delve deeper through exploring the site. 

The complex, intended to blend increasingly into the natural environment of Setonaikai National Park as the years go by, was designed by Tadao Ando. It is meant to be appreciated with the entire body, with long ramps, stairs, and passages to traverse, and with natural light from outside pouring in through apertures, weaving together indoors and outdoors.

Built on high ground overlooking the Seto Inland Sea, the large windows serve to open up the interior to the splendid natural surroundings. The Museum also contains permanent site-specific installations commissioned for the building, the artists selected their locations and designed the artworks to fit and mimic those spaces. The Museum's artworks can be found not just within its galleries, but in all parts of the building, as well as in scattered locations along the seashore that borders the complex and in the nearby forest. 

The Thief - Oslo, Norway

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Tjuvholmen (Thief Islet) used to be a haven for smugglers and thieves. Today it is home to a modern hideaway in the heart of downtown Oslo. The hotel is filled with top international art pieces, carefully selected designer furniture, global Nordic cuisine, top quality spa and cosmopolitan bars. 

The hotel's permanent art collection is curated by Sune Nordgren, the former director of Norway's National Museum of Art. Nordgren selected original artwork for each of the 119 rooms, from artists such as Sir Peter Blake, Richard Prince, Magne Furuholmen, Camilla Löw and Kjell Nupen, as well as emerging talent. As a world's first, the interactive TVs in each room offer 'art on demand' with a range of contemporary video art. 

The Surrey - New York, US

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The Surrey is New York City’s only Relais & Châteaux hotel, a residential haven and luxury Upper East Side hotel getaway, where guests revel in what makes New York City special - without compromising calm personal space.

Metres away from some of the finest cultural institutions in the world, The Surrey offers its own intimate collection of modern art From photographs by American conceptual artist, Jenny Holzer to interactive mixed media videos in a hidden niche between the lobby and the bar is an interactive video piece by South African artist William Kentridge, every space is rife with artwork from a diverse range of artists from across the globe. 

The building and the interior decor echo the rich cultural theme. London-based artists, Jimmie Karlsson and Martin Nihlman, best known as Jimmie Martin, were commissioned by Rottet Studio to custom design playful residential furnishings such as an ornate armoire and a customized chaise lounge. The linchpin of the collection is a tapestry of fashion icon Kate Moss by portrait artist Chuck Close.

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