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Pop-up goes the hotel art gallery

NATIONAL REPORT—When guests go to the hotel concierge to find things to do in the area, often an art gallery is one of the attractions suggested, especially in major markets such as New York and Los Angeles. These days, hotels are taking it upon themselves and keeping guests on property by hosting pop-up art galleries and exhibitions.

TOP TO BOTTOM: After a successful initial run, Mika Gallery is set to return to the Refinery Hotel next month and again in 2017.
The Tappan Collective has curated a number of pop-up art galleries at hotels, including Soho House in Los Angeles.

The trend is especially popular among independent boutique hotels. One such property is the Refinery Hotel in New York City, which recently hosted Mika Gallery, a collection of contemporary art from Tel Aviv, Israel, featuring such artists as Ido Shemi, Tony Farfalla, Lucy Sparrow, Nora Gres and Gregory Watin. Pieces were available for between $100 and $2,000.

“The pop-up marked the brand’s debut in the U.S., and the gallery’s goal was to offer a unique and diverse mix of modern art through an array of eclectic artists,” noted Refinery General Manager Eric Foley. “The Mika Gallery team was extremely pleased with the foot traffic it received and its sales, so the exhibit is returning to our 700-sq.-ft. rotating sidewalk-level space, Hatbox, from Nov. 6 to 29, and again in 2017.”

On the West Coast, The Tappan Collective, a Los Angeles-based digital space for discovering and collecting original work and limited-edition prints by emerging artists, has hosted a number of pop-up art galleries.

“We’ve worked with The Standard, The Roosevelt and Soho House—all in L.A.—and The W in Miami,” said Chelsea Neman Nassib, CEO and creative director of The Tappan Collective. “Each partnership involved us curating a number of works from our artists for view in the hotels’ public spaces. Each exhibition that we’ve done in hotels was well-received by the hotels, the guests and the public at large. They benefited the hotels because they gave them new and interesting spaces, which was especially important for their more-frequent guests. They simultaneously benefited us in spreading word-of-mouth and our brand among travelers from near and far who we might not otherwise have been able to reach at that point in our company’s development.”

Sarah F. Burns is an artist based in Southern Oregon. She recently helped organize her first hotel pop-up art gallery at the Ashland Springs Hotel—a boutique property in Ashland, OR—as part of the Ashland Gallery Association’s annual A Taste of Ashland art, food and wine event.

“The Ashland Springs Hotel is a beautiful, historic place that’s lovely to be in, and the general public really enjoyed an opportunity to spend time in a luxurious space while viewing the art,” said Burns. “Hotel guests were curious and excited about the unexpected cultural experience. It is also a great location.”

Burns pointed out the benefits of having an art gallery hosted at a hotel rather than other sites. “The big pro for a hotel location is that guests are welcome to linger and relax,” she said. “A traditional gallery has better lighting but is not quite as inviting. Restaurants and medical offices are heavily purposed spaces. Visitors are there to eat or seek healthcare and viewing art can be an enjoyable part of the experience, but they don’t get the same freedom to relax without obligations that a good hotel provides.”

Sarah F. Burns showed her artwork at the Ashland Springs Hotel in Oregon

The Refinery’s Foley noted there are also benefits for the hotel that is hosting the exhibit. “One of the ways we connect with our neighbors and the general public is by offering unique programming in the space to complement the amazing accommodations and three F&B venues on property,” he said. “We’ve noticed pop-ups are a great way to interact with our guests—it always keeps them wondering what’s next because there is always something new for them to look forward to. Our galleries also offer one-of-a-kind opportunities for those in the neighborhood to experience art and, in turn, we are providing a space in one of the most fashion-forward neighborhoods for many emerging artists—and artists who aren’t originally from New York—to showcase their work.”

Tappan, which works with such artists as Brian Merriam, Heather Day, Claire Oswalt and Gia Coppola, not only uses the pop-ups to promote the artists; it also uses them to promote itself.

“For us, the exposure that both our brand and our artists received was helpful in reaching new audiences,” said Nassib. “On the flip side, our publicity for the exhibitions in the hotels helped them gain new eyes and, hopefully, higher-end clientele who are frequent art buyers and collectors. Beyond the new audiences we helped the hotels reach, we also found that by curating their spaces and putting up new, engaging work, we were able to help inspire their guests and keep the space feeling fresh without an incredibly long-term commitment on the hotel’s part.”

Both Foley and Nassib believe pop-up art galleries are here to stay. “These galleries allow artists to share their work with new audiences in a different way than the standard artist webpage, gallery or museum. Pop-ups can be more exciting, since there is a limited time frame for them, and they’re typically something you can’t experience otherwise. They feel more exclusive and filled with surprise,” said Foley, who added that New York City is a hotbed for pop-ups because it is “home to so many local and emerging artists and a destination for art icons.”

Nassib sees art in hotels growing in popularity not only with pop-ups, but with other art-based concepts that will attract guests and benefit the properties, art collectives and artists alike.

“I do see the pop-up trend continuing, or at least a desire for new and interesting artwork in hotels continuing to rise—be they rotating installations or more permanent [exhibits],” she said. “Today’s traveler and shopper seem hungrier than ever for updates and change. The future of this type of partnership can and will go beyond a single event or pop-up. Instead of standard gift shops, someone like Tappan comes into a property to curate local artists in a given city to serve as options for souvenirs for hotel guests.”

For artists like Burns, hotels provide the perfect atmosphere for showing and selling their work. “Hotels are relaxing places. Even if you aren’t staying there, when you walk into a good hotel, you feel your needs are going to be cared for and you can just relax,” she said. “So, showing artwork in a hotel is great because the audience is in a pleasant, relaxed mood, open to the experience of viewing and contemplating art.” HB


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