When we book a hotel, we pour over reviews about room service, sheet thread count and pool temperatures. But the Vancouver Art Gallery is taking a much more cerebral look at hotels, with Grand Hotel: Redesigning Modern Life, a new exhibition curated by Jennifer M. Volland (open now through September) that explores hotels’ roles as architectural and cultural landmarks throughout time.
For example, did you know that actress Katharine Hepburn, champion of ladies’ slacks, refused to adhere to Claridge’s (a newly rated Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star property) lobby dress code for women in the early 1950s? And that 1960s-era sit-ins were staged at the Sheraton Palace Hotel in San Francisco? The exhibition, which involves various mediums, including photography, advertisements, video, film and interactive displays, features hotels from around the world and throughout history, focusing on four main themes — travel, design, social etiquette and culture.
Ideas such as American hotelier Conrad Hilton’s mandate of peace through tourism as well as how hotels have influenced films, novels and art, are explored. Museumgoers learn about Andy Warhol’s relationship with New York City’s Chelsea Hotel and the illicit affair in The Graduate at Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel. The Beat Generation’s relationship with Paris’ Beat Hotel (a nickname for the rundown spot where a loose group of poets, writers and musicians congregated), which hosted infamous guests such as Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, who completed his novel, Naked Lunch, there, is also showcased.
In the category of design, notables from around the globe include Flamingo Las Vegas, Imperial Hotel Tokyo, Dolder Grand Zurich (a 19th Century, Swiss castle-style façade with completely modern and luxurious amenities) and the Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Marina Bay Sands in Singapore (a massive casino/resort designed by Moshe Safdie, whose inspiration first stemmed from a deck of cards).
Photos Courtesy of Vancouver Art Gallery