The Definitive Guide to Houston

Hotel or Museum?: How Art Enlightens Local Hotels

in Art & Culture/Hotels by

Walking off the street into a hotel lobby is dramatic, by design. Lighting, music, scent, furniture, color are carefully assembled to create a distinctive ambiance. A hotel’s curated art collection can personalize that experience — transporting guests to a new sensory and emotional level.  As hoteliers seek to distinguish hotel stays, a notable art collection is a vibrant progressive approach to rise above the competition.

Art advisor Stefania Panepinto, owner of Panepinto Galleries and Panepinto Fine Art in the New York City area, explains, “A curated art collection creates of a sense of place, going beyond interior design to connect with the hotel guests. Art warms a space, creating a distinctive vibe by creating authentic emotional connections.”

Panepinto, herself a fine artist, has curated permanent art collections for Marriott, Element, Study Hotels and Hilton’s Canopy Hotels. “A permanently curated art collection is a culturally significant way to immerse guests into the remarkable world of art and create longevity as a sought-after destination,” adds Panepinto. “An intimate, exclusive experience, whether for boutique hotels or larger brand properties, is the goal.”

Panepinto found her passion while working in her family’s real estate business, Panepinto Properties. “In approaching new projects, I visualized artworks to create captivating interiors.” Eventually she founded Panepinto Fine Art to bring this vision to life. Panepinto says permanent art collections transform a hotel from a place guests come to stay into an impactful, eye-catching adventure.

“A hotel’s art collection inspires and encourages immersive moments for guests. Art transforms lobbies, seating nooks, meeting rooms and incidental spaces into vibrant, memorable places,” Panepinto explains. “Art can turn a seating area into a soothing retreat or an elevator nook into an Instagrammable gallery. Art energizes a space, inciting a visceral reaction.”

There is also a financial upside: A permanent art collection increases in value over time.

Art cultivates a luxury lifestyle brand to document travel memories. “In our fast-paced digital society, guests desire aspirational luxury. Art creates a cultural energy, making for ‘wow’ social media moments, and inspires visitors to a new, enlightened, lighter place,” Panepinto elucidates.

Hotel owners are looking to inject style and personality through art, while showcasing work they love.  Permanent art collections fill lobbies, hallways, conference rooms, public spaces and individual guest rooms. “Guests are surrounded by a continuous flow of art throughout the hotel’s spaces,” explains Panepinto.

Art collections in hotels end up inspiring major art districts with various collections in public spaces, museums and galleries, supporting the city, neighborhood, local galleries, artists and adjacent properties. “An evocative art collection increases foot traffic and marks a hotel as a destination for viewing renowned artwork,” says Panepinto.

The Hotels

With this in mind, several Houston hotels — La Colombe d’Or, Hotel ZaZa and Hotel Alessandra — are taking their artistic endeavors to new levels by using art curation to build iconic identities. These forward-thinking hotels move beyond design and style, approaching curation as a way to capture the hotels’ unique spirit. “These inspiring installations include local, national and globally acclaimed artists,” notes Panepinto.

Stefania Panepinto

We spoke with art curators at the La Colombe d’ Or, Hotel ZaZa and the Hotel Alessandra about their art and how it affects the guest experience.

A Taste of France In Houston at La Colombe d’ Or

Courtesy of La Colombe d’Or

La Colombe d’ Or, a luxury boutique hotel located in Houston, was originally built in 1923 as a private residence known as the Fondren Mansion for the founder of Humble Oil. The landmark residence is now a destination hotel and a gateway to the Houston Museum District, within walking distance to an array of independent boutiques, cafes, entertainment venues and galleries.

La Colombe d’ Or owner Steve Zimmerman acquired the Mansion in 1980. Over the past 30 years, the self-professed Francophile has transformed the Mansion into the boutique hotel named for the renowned café in the artist village St. Paul de Vence. In the 1960’s Zimmerman and his wife, Becky, began spending time in France, particularly in St. Paul de Vence, known for attracting local artists. It was commonplace to see resident artists such as Picasso, Chagall and Matisse walking the streets and spending time in La Colombe d’ Or.  “Zimmerman wanted to recreate its namesake concept,” explains Marianne Bruvel, Art Curator for La Colombe d’ Or. “He began purchasing local artwork, collecting from local galleries, and forging relationships so he could showcase their works in the hotel.” Works by local artists include Dorothy Hood and Earl Staley, as well as the sculptures of Karen Garrett.

Courtesy of La Colombe d’Or

The Zimmermans aimed to fill the hotel with artwork they acquired over the years, creating an art gallery for visitors to experience art and purchase some of the work. “There is an eclectic mix of different artists primarily from the Zimmerman’s private collection with rotating works in the gallery space,” states Bruvel. “The collection within the main hotel and guest rooms are rotated as well: Visitors are continually surprised with new treasures.”

Although the hotel is known for exhibiting European art, the third-floor formal gallery hosts at least six shows a year, consisting of the hotel’s established artists, as well as a few new ones. Regular clientele relies on these shows to add to their collections,” says Bruvel.

La Colombe d’ Or is unique for Houston. The overall vibe is European with a twist — a welcoming, elegant, relaxing and embracing environment. Upon entering the hotel, you feel as though you’ve stepped into Europe. Local residents visit the hotel for “staycations,” and its location in the heart of the museum district is minutes away from the Galleria and Uptown Park area. As Bruvel explains, “La Colombe d’ Or is truly a taste of Europe in downtown Houston, and an integral must-see of the arts district.”

A Visit to Many Different Lands at Hotel ZaZa

Procter Galliano Royal, Courtesy of Hotel ZaZa

Hotel ZaZa is a collection of three unique luxury boutique hotels located in the Houston Museum District, the up-and-coming Houston Memorial City, as well as one in Uptown Dallas. The group is using art to create a truly transporting experience for guests.

The hotel owners have curated an extensive art collection for the hotels that are meant to be inspirational and thought-provoking. Each one-of-a-kind piece has been thoughtfully selected to enhance the hotel guest experience. “The artwork is what sets our hotels apart,” states Charles Givens, CEO of the ZaZa Hotels and Resorts. “There is so much to explore and enjoy.”

The art brings the space alive and evokes passion, creativity and productivity. In each of the ZaZa Hotels there are concept rooms, with art and décor conscribing to a theme — from Casa Blanca, Geisha House, Soho Loft to French Connection and many more. “The concept rooms embody themes from faraway lands and lifestyles, making for a truly unique experience for the quests,” explains Givens. “Guests can return many times, experience a different themed room and have a whole new experience.”

“Every hotel in the Hotel ZaZa portfolio is different in design and character, but our guests can feel the creative and clever DNA that connects each property,” Givens says. “Even our ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs have a unique artist flare with fabulous styling and photography by Linda Mason. Guests often take them home as souvenirs.”

Courtesy of Hotel ZaZa

The lobby and public spaces are an unexpected feast for the senses. There are numerous thought-provoking pieces.

Upon entering the lobby in Hotel ZaZa Houston Museum District there are many iconic photographs and other over-sized original classic movie posters. “The most impressive original art is a 15-by-7-foot piece by British artist and sculptor Simon Proctor, whose works are displayed at The Boston Museum of Fine Arts and at the Museum of Modern Art in Moscow,” states Givens. “It was acquired by the hotel in 2008 at Art Basel.”

Courtesy of Hotel ZaZa

Other notable pieces include “Le Gloria Vista” by Lluis Barbara, “Parable Revisited” by Maggie Hasbrouk and “Dangerous Games” by Ilona Zaremba.

The artwork in the ZaZa properties creates truly memorable experiences for guests. As Givens explains, “We want our guests to know that they are loved at ZaZa. We want them to know our art and unique styling is ever-evolving.”

Old-World Grandeur at Hotel Alessandra

Courtesy of Hotel Alessandra

Hotel Alessandra is a contemporary reinterpretation of Old-World elegance, grandeur, and charm. Its name is derived from a fictional story of the eldest daughter of a Spanish legendary hotelier family who comes to Houston, falls in love with the city and the people and wants to live here part-time, so she brings with her family heirlooms to create an inspirational home for herself and guests. The story of Alessandra comes alive through the architecture and art.

Courtesy of Hotel Alessandra

The hotel worked with Rottet Studio, an internationally acclaimed design firm to bring the story of Alessandra to life. “The interior architecture is devoid of any true Old-World details as it is a contemporary statement about the grandeur of arches, tall ceilings and architectural volumes,” explains Kyle Rottet, Director of Marketing for Rottet Studio. “The artwork for the hotel provides the rich visual intrigue without us needing to adorn the space with moldings or gilding it with ornament.”

The Alessandra’s artwork is part of the hotel’s permanent collection. The pieces behind the front desk and at the stair landing are photographs of Reinhard Görner, a German artist known for intimate, profound and mysterious photography in a wide-angle format. “Viewers are invited to follow the gaze of the photographer, projecting them inside a space of calmness and serenity,” says Rottet. “The brightness of his images, the impression of depth and perspective play with our perception, capture the beauty of places and reveal our own emotions when we are confronted with space and architecture.”

The artwork chosen for the guest rooms also consists of photographs. Examples include three different images of dogs: an Afghan Hound, a Dalmatian and a Great Dane, each featured with an expressive hand of a woman with exquisite jewelry, with loving tension between her and her beloved, strong dog. Rottet explains that this is “to emphasize the correlation of beauty and power, much like the design of the hotel itself. We worked with DAC Art Consultants to create the images.”

Through the design and artwork, the owners and designers of the Hotel Alessandra wanted to create a feel of contemporary Southern hospitality luxury with old-world European style, and the end result accomplishes just that, giving guests a transporting experience into old-world grandeur right in Houston.

A curated collection is also a way to support local artists – through commissions, as well as support for Arts Districts in the neighborhoods where these hotels reside. “There is nothing more exhilarating than coming face-to-face with dramatic, evocative pieces of art that generate lasting memories for families, friends, couples and visitors,” says Panepinto.


Featured image courtesy of Hotel Alessandra.

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