Image of a reproduction of artist Richard Hutten’s installation “Llayers Llove Hotel Room”, photo by Catherine Haley Epstein.
Last weekend on a trip to Vancouver, BC I had the unexpected pleasure of seeing the exhibit Grand Hotel: Redesigning Modern Life at the Vancouver Art Gallery. The ambitious show on the theme of hotel as pre-eminent architectural and social structure was separated into four main themes of travel, design, the social and culture. I travel often, and find great respite in hotels and travel – something about the departure of the usual, and the return to the usual is a recipe for loose thinking. I am always more productive after a stay at a hotel, and have been known to check in locally on occasion simply to do work.
The travel and design segments of the show were the most obvious, and at times tedious – while I understand the psychology of travel is an enormous influence on people, I was not ready to read the three-wall graphic display of text and image on the history of route 66. The design section had some gorgeous maquets, in particular that of Moshe Safdie’s hotel design at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore (2,561 rooms!!).
Most interesting for me was the culture and social sections of the exhibit. I have known the lore behind the Chelsea Hotel for years, especially after reading “Just Kids” by Patti Smith, where she lived for some time with her then boyfriend Robert Mapplethorpe, but had no idea that Yves Klein wrote a masterful “Chelsea Hotel Manifesto“. Long live the immaterial!
I am also aware of the history and panache of the Chateau Marmont Hotel. I stayed there this past January on a trip to LA, and it was all I had imagined it would be – celebrity spottings and an understated elegance that it has been known for since it was redone by André Balazs. I did not know however, and courtesy of the exhibit, that Hannah Wilke did a photo shoot there to advertise an upcoming exhibit of hers at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts in New York. The photo is sexy, sexy (very LA), and was taken by her then boyfriend Claes Oldenberg. Who knew??
There were rows upon rows of discovery for me in terms of the actual work that was written, filmed and recorded at these hotels. Lots of major plans hatch in hotels (The New Yorker was sprouted from frequent meetings at the Algonquin Hotel by the Algonquin Round Table), books written (Rudyard Kipling’s “Jungle Book” said to be written at the Singapore Hotel), and screenplays (Buck Henry’s screenplay for “The Graduate”).
I’m going to make a stretch here – I’ve always thought that travel and hotel stay was a bit like the Hawthorne effect. The Hawthorne effect was originally proof given to businesses that if people thought they were being studied and looked after, they would be more productive in the workplace. Similarly, when you stay at a hotel you are looked after – there hasn’t been a trip that I have been on that upon my return I’ve been very productive and had many creative blocks undone and doors open. This exhibit proves my theory of the Hotel Effect = more productivity.
If you can’t see the layout of the exhibit at the Vancouver Gallery, at the very least check out the catalog, or the fantastic gold scratch map they had in the exhibit book shop…brilliant.
Last but not least some ear candy – the very last video of the song “Blue” by REM produced last Fall, directed by James Franco with Patti Smith singing, and starring Chateau Marmont. Thinking this is the epitome of cool with hipster glasses…