Hotels have become akin to nouveau museums, allowing them to leverage their brands’ visual identity and to showcase the country’s ethos by doubling as art galleries. At The Leela Palace, Chennai’s lobby is Basant, an artwork by Surendra Pal Joshi from Rajasthan. The artist has drawn inspiration from the vast mustard fields on the road to Delhi, and also has influences from poet Amir Khusro’s verses on sarson (mustard). In the middle, is the Pai Paisa that dates back to 1945—British India bronze coin with a hole in the centre.
“This expresses that India is currently experiencing its Spring, having come a long way from the days of the Pai Paisa to its present strong economy,” says Nidhi Verma, a spokesperson from the hotel. Then, ‘The Flying Dream’, is a gigantic life-size sculpture by Paresh Maity symbolising dreams of fragile human relationships. “Placement of art and artefacts is consistent with our brand philosophy. It is not an afterthought. Each work of art has a specific place that is earmarked early on in the planning stages of the hotel,” says Verma.
The Imperial New Delhi, displays almost 5,000 pieces of lithographs and engravings, in addition to acclaimed artists Thomas and William Daniell’s works. Artists from the late 17th century who produced etchings, aquatints and mezzotints based on sketches of landscapes, architecture, topography and life and times of India have also been showcased.“Our Indian restaurant Daniell’s Tavern is christened after the Daniells, and artist Emily Eden has a banquet space named after her. This art captures Indian life in the era of The Mughals and the entire British period,” says Vijay Wanchoo, senior EVP and GM, The Imperial New Delhi. Similarly, veteran artist Satish Gujral’s ‘The Devi’ at The Club Lounge at The Leela Palace, New Delhi is a powerful sculptural rendition.
Artist Vijit Pillai was commissioned to work on Radisson Blu, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad, when it launched in 2012. “Pillai is a pioneer of new media and digital art. His prints at the hotel range from countryside scenes to village landscapes to figurative and portraits,” says Sandeep Joshi, general manager, adding, “The lobby area doubles as an art gallery where some of his most prominent works—‘The Last Supper’, ‘Khajuraho, Kama Sutra’ and ‘Buddha and Shiva’—are on display. His work is valued between `35,000 and `5 lakh, but besides him, we also have other prominent display in the form of Lord Ganesha’s sculpture in the centre of the lobby.”
Hotels like Metropolitan Hotel and Spa in Delhi rotate their pieces every few months to a space more dynamic. “This gives our guests, especially long-staying ones, something new as they may not get to visit galleries during their stay,” says Babita Gupta, founder, Art Spice Gallery at the hotel. In the gardens of The Leela Palace Bengaluru, a set of pillars called Yali makes for majestic decorative pieces. Yali is a mythical creature often sculpted on pillars of Hindu temples in the south of India.
“We have seven original Yalis gifted to us by Archeological Department of India to safeguard the country’s art and artefact repository as well as to commemorate the hotel’s work during the opening time,” says Prateek Vashisht, front office manager. Among other prominent works, two are by artist Bhim Singh Hada. One is in the lobby depicting the Wadiyar brothers, members of the royal family of Mysore, and the other is a portrait of the Maharaja of Mysore, Chamarajendra Wadiyar. Another striking visual is the painting showing Lord Cornwallis taking the sons of Tipu Sultan as hostages. The draw of art in modern hotels is undeniable. In addition to a smart marketing strategy, art also gives hotels a plush reputation.