I just read an article in BusinessWeek about how Ian Schrager has declared that "designed hotels" are over. Schrager has moved on to reinvent the so-called “art hotels.” Schrager, who gutted the old Gramercy Park Hotel, tossing it’s long-term residents to the curb, is collaborating with Julian Schnabel—an artist associated with the Chelsea Hotel—to create what he calls a “bohemian” spirit, “but bohemian with money.”
Apparently, the filthy rich, ever in search of new experiences to re-invigorate their jaded palates, are tiring of these boring “design” hotels like the W chain, with their “hospitality-as-theatre.” They demand a new sense of “authenticity,” which can be fulfilled only by a sort of “hospitality-as-installation-art.” Hence, at a place called The Gladstone in Toronto, they’ve hired different artists to design each room--“keeping them in check with a prepared booklet”—while offering live music at a bar peopled with “a crowd of regulars from the hotel’s fleabag days.”
I wonder if these old-time bohemians know that they’re the entertainment. Hopefully they’re at least getting free drinks for their performances, though I wouldn’t count on it. It all reminds me of an episode I witnessed a few years back when the hostess of Serena’s, the hoity-toity club in the basement of the Chelsea, came running into the hotel lobby, yelling, “Oh my God! Don’t send people from the hotel down to my club! There’s one standing in line now demanding to get in! And he’s already been drinking! And he’s wearing a sweatshirt!” Bohemia is best in theory. We’ll see how long this arrangement lasts.
But I am intrigued by this notion of the prepared booklet. Stanley Bard should have one printed to keep us Chelseaites in check as well. Possible regulations could include: Keep your robe closed when shuffling through the darkened hallways at midnight; Wear your best shirt to nod off in the elevator; Keep all cigarette-fires confined to your own mattress; Try not to hit your head on the filigreed iron work when you throw yourself down the stairwell; Avoid profanity when psychotically raving into the airshaft.
We’ve commented on this art hotel phenomenon here before, but with Blum’s article I suppose the trend is official. Several other hotels are named in the article as well, I just don’t feel like advertising for them right now. There’s plenty of indication that at least some of the hoteliers are not so stupid as I have made out. They just want to get in on the trend and milk it before it plays itself out, make a quick buck and dispose, without too much fuss, of the ruined lives that result. The good news is, the art hotel trend contains the seeds of its own destruction. The rich will soon tire of this brand of “authenticity” as well, and then they can get back to ignoring us and we can get back to making art--hopefully sooner rather than later, before we’re all out on the street.