How well does high art mix with luxury? It’s a question that must occur to most of us these days who frequent exhibitions, and art events in Delhi, where five-star hotels have come to be seen as convenient stand-ins, in all their opulence, for museums and galleries.
Art lovers everywhere are fully aware of the dearth of adequate infrastructure for promoting art in Delhi – there’s an acute shortage of galleries in this city, for instance. And luxury hotels, as aware of this lacuna as anyone else, seem to have sensed a commercial opportunity here. That’s why it is usual nowadays to hear of “art brunches”, and large promotional events featuring senior artists at some of the plushest hotels in the national capital.
Many hotels have teamed up with artists and organisers to co-host big events. And some, like the Claridges, have gone so far as to set up permanent art galleries on their property. The Crayon Art Gallery at the Claridges was launched last year and it today showcases excellent original works by some of India’s best artists.
“We at the Claridges wanted to capture the essence of the history of art and culture with some on India’s most celebrated artists and it couldn’t have got better than with an association with the Crayon Art Gallery by Amit Vadhera and Gaurav Karan,” says Atul Lall, VP, Hospitality and General Manager, the Claridges Hotels & Resorts. “The gallery represents talents from all across the country including artists like M.F. Husain, Anjolie Ela Menon, F.N. Souza and S.H. Raza to name a few. Luxury has always had a subtle but longstanding history with art and with a location steeped in history, The Claridges, New Delhi’s association with the same is but a natural extension. In the near future, we intend to plan art openings, art shows and events, and even art walks. The idea is to have art as an integral part of our identity going forward.”
But what of the visitors? How much do they care about fine art becoming part of their hotel experience? “Yes, definitely I have an interest in art and I don’t know much about the art galleries. So this new concept of art inside hotels has really caught my attention.”
Babita Gupta is the director of Art Spice Gallery at The Metropolitan Hotel & Spa in central Delhi. “On my many travels abroad, I was always fascinated how some hotels would transform their entire lobby into an art space,” she tells Guardian 20. “There would be art on the streets in the form of benches painted by different artists to be used by the public. Old buildings turned into canvases for artist to paint. Even restaurants and some rooms of hotels would showcase art. So being an owner, what better way to showcase Indian art for travellers and give them a taste of Indian sensibilities and add to their experience?”
These hotels have definitely taken into consideration that their visitors expect, along with good food and great ambience, a transient engagement with fine art. This could be inspiration behind Hotel Pullman’s decision to host at their eatery Pluck and Pling an art exhibition every Sunday for their “art brunch”. Urvashi Malik, the public relations manager of Pullman explains the concept in more detail. “All which is cooked here especially, at the art brunch is taken from the farms which the owner has maintained in house. The lavish spread includes a farm-to-table salad bar, a modern European, Asian and India buffet that includes dishes like Baby Lamb Curry with Mint Dust & Kashmir Valley, Red Wine Braised Lamb Shanks with Mini Ratatouille and Garlic Jus, Seared Tiger Prawn with Leeks Compote and White Wine Sauce, Shrimp Tempura with Cured Mango and Tobanjan Aioli Sushi. In addition to this, we invite an artist every Sunday for an impromptu exhibition of their work that they have composed right at the spot. Here the visitors can interact with the artist and also learn a thing or two about art.”
Pankaj Nigam the painter who was present at Pluck and Pling is quite fond of such a setup. “The experience at Pullman was great,” he says. “Many people came and appreciated the artworks. I was looking for some non-gallery interaction and here I founded one.”
On the relevance of showing art at luxury hotels, Vijay Wanchoo, Senior Executive VP & GM, the Imperial, New Delhi says: “Art adds to the sheer splendour and luxury of any hotel. For historic hotels like ours, art is an important element to showcase the valuable heritage while it contributes to the repertoire and enhances “The Imperial” experience. Art is extensively showcased on each floor of our hotel and is an intrinsic part of its heritage. At every level of Imperial’s sprawling four storey structure, in every public area, in the lobby, at the stairwells and canopies, rare and fine art complements the experience. Art adorning fountains and furniture, covering walls, accompanying you in royal carriages and in rooms graced with four-poster beds. For an art lover the progress through this maze can be delightfully unhurried.”
But what of the visitors? How much do they care about fine art becoming part of their hotel experience? “Yes, definitely I have an interest in art and I don’t know much about the art galleries. So this new concept of art inside hotels has really caught my attention. This allows an easy consumption of art for people like me who are regular visitors to hotels. This is certainly a nice concept,” says Poorti Mishra, who works with Microsoft.
The Imperial, which is also characterised as a museum hotel, has their three floors dedicated to etchings, wood engravings, lithographs, aquatints and mezzotints based on sketches of landscapes, architecture, topography, especially from the era of British India. The hotel also takes its visitors to art tours followed by high tea at a price of Rs 2,500 per person.
So having a space, or elaborate events, dedicated to art is definitely the next big thing in the hospitality industry. The question is, can Delhi’s gallery circuit catch up?