BY Robyn BARDGETT
The Hamilton Princess Hotel & Beach Club
opens art appreciation to a wider audience
as it embodies public access to art
Discreetly hanging in the corner of the second floor mezzanine of the Hamilton Princess Hotel & Beach Club is a Picasso. To see to this famous piece of art, you pass under a series of hibiscus flowers by Andy Warhol and past a mind-bending Optical Art piece by Philippe Decrauzat. Meanwhile, in the formal and opulent Trudeau Ballroom, across the hall hangs the bright, poppy smiling flowers of contemporary Japanese artist Takashi Murakami.
The quality and renown of this artwork would not be out of place in a museum, but instead, it shares common space with hotel guests lounging in the lobby, waiters rolling food carts, gym members on treadmills and curious children, who seem just as intrigued by the works as their parents.
The art is not hidden away, but thoughtfully placed throughout the hotel – behind the concierge desk, in hallways, inside guest rooms, in the restaurants and even in the public restrooms.
Furthermore, unlike a museum, there is an unspoken permission for visitors to approach (but not touch) the artwork. There are no ropes to keep people, or children, away, really creating a sense of accessibility to the art and expanding the opportunity to appreciate and enjoy it.
The hotel’s focus on art has also created opportunities for Bermudian artists to be showcased amongst such a glittering array of the internationally renowned artists. Pieces by Otto Trott, Jon Legere, Will Collieson, and Catherine Lapsley along with cedar work by Milton Hill are weaved throughout the collection while Carlos Santana Dill, who worked as a concierge at the hotel and is now a full-time artist, has his pointillist-style pieces on display – a nod to the full-circle experience of working in a place that values and encourages art.
While the sheer volume of art is staggering the variety of styles and mediums is equally impressive. There is the ever-popular Hero Designed interactive #princessbright that every child – both young and old – can’t get enough of, and the soaring KAWS figure that most believe is that iconic mouse from Disney (but it’s not).
The juxtaposition of legends such as Warhol, Picasso and David Hockney sharing space with street, urban, and graffiti artists like Invader, Banksy and D-Face even challenges the notion of what is considered art.
“It embraces the lines between high and low,” says Lisa Howie, an art consultant who leads a tour of the hotel’s art on Saturday mornings. The tour is free for hotel guests, but locals can join too for a small fee.
With little to no descriptions or statements accompanying the pieces, it does welcome viewers to reflect for themselves on cultural pieces like the street artist Pegasus’ “Harry’s Girl” or the surrealist artist Rene Magritte. One of which you would expect to find in a museum while the other was originally painted on the side of a hair salon in North London.
When the hotel was purchased by the Green family in 2012, and underwent major renovations, it lifted its formal feel and made way for a contemporary, yet grand, space that somehow feels more like a home to display the artwork “compared to the more classic and austere space that the hotel was before,” says Ms Howie.
The collection, which is completely curated by the Green family, began to evolve, and the changes to the hotel allowed for the artwork to add a new ambience. The display also challenges the concept of hotel art and art for public consumption, which isn’t often experienced in Bermuda.
And the collection is ever-evolving with pieces often moved around the hotel and new pieces being added. “This keeps it fresh for guests,” says Ms Howie. With so much thought given to the placement of the pieces, there are plenty of “a-ha” moments to be had, that really make it feel smart and also adds a new sort of energy to the hotel.
For instance, how many have sat sipping mimosas at brunch in Marcus’ without realising the significance of Nelson Mandela’s “Struggle” series facing them from near the restaurant’s kitchen.
“Marcus’ celebrates Southern soul food and predominantly African American-style of cooking, there is a theme and thought behind the placement of the art, it’s not just random,” says Sian Blackmore, the hotel’s PR Manager.
The commitment to art also extends outside of the hotel with the family commissioning the “Greetings from Bermuda” mural on the side of the Dorchester building near the corner of Church Street and Par-la-Ville Road in Hamilton.
“It’s a fun attraction in town that really brightens up that space,” says Ms Blackmore. Back at the hotel, a smaller “Greetings from Bermuda” sign was painted, inviting guests to take fun Instagram-worthy shots with the iconic background.
In fact, interacting with the art plays a big part in guests’ enjoyment of the space while staying at the hotel. There are ample opportunities for selfies and even signs that guide visitors to an “Instagram Photo-op” allowing art and everyday life to intersect.
One guest’s social media post read: “Completely shocked to walk into our hotel and see works by nearly every contemporary artist you’ve ever heard of and more.”
Along with being an opening for students to experience the art within the hotel (see sidebar), pieces from the art collection are often loaned out to the Bermuda National Gallery and coincide with their art curriculum.
“When we have students and visitors come in and say they are interested in going further with their art, we often connect them with the BNG where they’ll get a more comprehensive museum experience. But through the hotel’s collection, they have the ability to experience both,” says Ms Blackmore.