Art at The Merchant House, Bahrain
Bahrain’s first ever five-star boutique hotel, The Merchant House, was recently unveiled by Campbell Gray Hotels in February 2019. Following this exciting opening, the capital city of Manama arguably gained its newest and most extraordinary art gallery thanks to the hotel’s impressive art collection.
The Merchant House is full of captivating art carefully curated by Founder, Gordon Campbell Gray. Comprising both well-established Bahraini artists as well as up-and-coming talent from both Bahrain and the wider Gulf region, The Merchant House’s interiors are both striking and completely original. The hotel is also home to artwork by some of most famed artists from across the globe, for example, throughout the hotel – including guests’ suites – internationally-revered works by the likes of Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Matisse, Gaugin, Chagall and Toulouse-Lautrec can be admired.
The Merchant House offers 46 suites all of which feature distinctive graphic screens and wall concepts by Bahraini / American architect and artist Nasser Alzayani. Nasser’s illustrations beautifully reflect the city’s seafaring past as well as the hotel’s metropolitan surroundings. Each one of Nasser’s pieces provide an explosion of colour creating a true visual treat for guests.
The Merchant House’s penchant for art is particularly apt, complementing Bahrain’s impressive and continually growing art scene. Manama’s souqs are vibrant shopping areas selling beautiful pieces by local artists as well as textiles, spices, incense, handicrafts and perfumes. In addition, The Bahrain International Art Fair is, year by year, becoming increasingly popular with a sophisticated set of discerning and art-savvy travellers visiting from far and wide.
Art at Ballyfin, Ireland
Ballyfin boasts vast amounts of artwork, adorning the walls throughout the house, from both Irish and international painters. Works by many of the leading figures of Irish Art, as well as paintings and drawings of Irish subject matter by continental and American artists provide for a fascinating exploration of Ireland’s art, history, topography and social life. Over the nine years that Ballyfin was being restored and turned into a hotel, a suitable collection of Irish (and Ireland-related) art was assembled to decorate the enormous spaces of the great building. The family portraits showing generations of the Cootes were reinstalled, having left the house some ninety years ago and make for a sensational display on the grand staircase.
If some of these soldier ancestors can look at little foreboding, in a felicitous contrast the children who first enjoyed the house in the 1820s are shown in a stunning group portrait by George Hayter (1792-1871), which hangs proudly in the Gold Drawing Room. Family lore has it that the animated whippet in the foreground was added by the great animal painter Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-73). Also, in the Gold Drawing Room are portraits of the earlier owners of the house, Richard and William Wellesley – as shown as children – in pastels by Daniel Gardner, while their brother, the Duke of Wellington, is portrayed in a fine marble bust by Peter Turnerelli, which sits in the Library.
In addition to these paintings with direct connections to the earlier occupiers of the house, careful thought was also given in seeking out art works with meaningful connections to Ballyfin: the first painting that guests encounter is a magnificent full-length portrait of Sir Audley Mervyn (c. 1603-75) who was related to all three families who owned Ballyfin at one time or another: the Crosbys, the Poles and the Cootes. Hanging above the chimney-piece in the Saloon is an enormous view of the great demesne at Belan in the adjoining county of Kildare by William Ashford (1746-1824), while Ashford’s painting of Ballyfin itself is on display in the Library.
As well as portraits, many other genres are represented, and the works on display in the State Rooms and bedrooms give a full account of Irish art of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Art at Le Gray, Beirut
Le Gray itself is a contemporary artwork, designed by renowned interior designer Mary Fox Linton, in close collaboration with Gordon Campbell Gray. The design concept for the project was contemporary chic: sophisticated and discreet, with a few surprises. The look has been achieved through a contemporary colour palette, modern design and artistic touches, including, but not exclusive of, the large floral panel on the double height reception area, designed by Valerie Boy, a cast resin curved wall with metallic bronze matt finish and bespoke chandelier.
In addition to Le Gray’s stunning contemporary design, the property houses a private contemporary art collection of more than 500 pieces in many shapes and mediums. The pieces of art which are featured within the hotel were hand selected by Gordon Campbell Gray from different cities around the world including Cuba, Addis, Ababa, France and Beirut.
Some notable pieces and artists in Le Gray’s collection begin with, Juan Roberto Diago – one of Cuba’s most prominent and internationally known contemporary artists. Diago has received numerous national and international prizes and awards and today his works are included in private collections world-wide – two pieces are part of the Le Gray collection, hanging in the Atrium and in the Cigar Lounge. Fred Bred, of France, creates playful and dreamlike pictorial work, an extension of the nostalgic world of advertising iconography drawn from yesteryear. The Fred Bred piece at Le Gray hangs in the Poolside Bar on the rooftop. David Reimondo, an Italian artist, has a piece at Le Gray which is on display in Gordon’s Café, depicting a world map, made from unusual and unexpected materials. Nadim Karam, from Lebanon, an architect who is also a painter, sculptor and urban artist, works on creating dreams for cities. Karam was commissioned to create a baby elephant sculpture for Le Gray, which is made of resin studs set on a wood sculpture, this memorable piece sits in Le Gray’s lofty reception area.
Le Gray is often named the official hotel partner for the annual BEIRUT ART FAIR, which host art works from approximately 50 galleries from around the world, showcasing diverse creations from established and emerging artists.
Art at The Beaumont, Mayfair – London
The Beaumont occupies a Grade II-listed 1926 Art Deco building in Mayfair.
Its design is inspired by the great Art Deco hotels of the 1930s and recaptures the spirit of old-world luxury. At the heart of the hotel lies a history created by The Beaumont’s original founder, Mr. Jeremy King OBE, to add to the hotel and inform the ethos, interior design and style of the hotel: the fictional hotelier Jimmy Beaumont is an architectural leitmotif which haunts the corridors of what King imagined to have been a hotel created by a hotelier escaping the constrictions of Prohibition-shackled New York.
The most notable artwork at The Beaumont is undoubtedly ROOM, by internationally celebrated artist, Antony Gormley. ROOM is a three-storey inhabitable sculpture, and was created to be an experiential work of art. The monumental bedroom, ten metres high, clad entirely in dark, fumed oak, and furnished only with a bed, allowed Gormley “to sculpt darkness itself”.
In the Colony Grill, American Artist John Mattos was commissioned to produce a series of murals depicting American sporting scenes and legendary venues as well as a set of 48 black and white cartoons of famous characters from the 1920s, 30s and 40s. These characters were prominent on both sides of the Atlantic and were possibly friends of Jimmy Beaumont.
Under the guidance of Nina Campbell, the bar has undergone a ‘soft’ refurbishment, bringing colour, space and comfort to the already clubby interior. A new selection of painting and original posters have been hung on the new blue burlap walling. Set centre-stage within the bespoke suede-lined bookcase is René Magritte’s oil, Le Maitre d’École, which The Magritte Bar is named after. Work by Samuel John Peploe and John Duncan Fegusson face the bar. Two rare Charlot Charlie Chaplin posters by Auguste Louis Leymarie from 1917/18 completed the grouping of early 20th century works. All the originals are in one private collection and have been reproduced to the highest quality with special permission just for The Beaumont.
The walls of the public areas, bedrooms and suites are adorned with black and white photographs as well as original oils, which feature both anonymous and significant individuals of the era. Artists featured include John Lavalle, Julian Lamar, Walter I Cox, Robert Knight Ryland and other small collections by Phyllis Bray and Zelda Fitzgerald.
Art at The PuXuan, Beijing
Only minutes away from the Forbidden City and Beijing’s main commercial and shopping district, The PuXuan Hotel and Spa is a true gem in the very nerve centre of the Chinese capital.
Designed by internationally renowned German architect, Ole Scheeren, the hotel sits atop the new Guardian Art Centre, in an iconic state-of-the-art building at the intersection of WangFuJing Street and WuSi Street; a symbolic crossroads of commerce (WangFuJing) and arts (WuSi). The building comprises the headquarters for China Guardian Auctions, China’s oldest art auction house, and an exhibition space as well as the hotel.
In collaboration with design firm, MQ Studio, the interior design of the hotel celebrates the city out of which it is born. Much of the design is inspired by Beijing’s history and especially the Chinese ‘Hutongs’ which are traditional courtyard-style dwellings. For example, the lobby floor is made of handmade, polished, clay ‘century tiles’ from Suzhour, similar to those found in the neighbouring Imperial Palace.
This impeccable attention to detail is evident throughout every space in the hotel. Rive Gauche is the French restaurant at The PuXuan and takes its name from the left bank of Paris which, in the 1960s, was famed for producing leading artists, writers and thinkers. Decoration throughout the restaurant comes from the concept of ‘Object Trouvé’, whereby vintage glassware, bone cutlery and other antiquities have been bought from the flea markets lining the street of Paris.
The PuXuan has 116 rooms, within the glass upper ring of the building. 115 of the rooms feature an art safe. These are custom-designed and made entirely of steel, with two compartments; one for storing artworks and another for small items such as jewellery. The Guardian Art Centre can undertake any necessary transport for guests who have purchased any items.
Prominent artworks include The Dwellings of Fuchun Mountains, one of the few surviving works by Huang Gongway of the Yuan dynasty, and one of China’s most famous paintings. At the lobby entrance is Deshu Qiu’s The Mountain. Qui is the one the earliest and most representative artists of contemporary China. Throughout the hotel, sculptures, ceramics and paintings are displayed, in celebration of Chinese artists, both renowned and budding. Each guest room is home to three art stands displaying ceramics by up and coming artists, as a final pledge by the hotel to contemporary Chinese art.