Museum hotel

by Eszter Hargittai on May 29, 2006

Recently I stayed at an intriguing hotel that is worth a mention: the 21C Museum Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. (I was unimpressed by the reservation part of the experience, but the stay made up for the annoyances incurred at that stage.)

Upon entrance, you almost have to step on the projection of two people sleeping in bed to get to the receptionists and/or the elevators to access your room. I wonder how many people who notice this just walk right across the image versus how many decide to walk around the picture. Big plastic red penguins are scattered across the building, not just in the designated museum section, but also in the hallways. I didn’t care for some of the installations (like the film about a woman and a man having a seemingly pleasant dinner judging from their facial expressions despite the fact that mice are walking all over their food), but some of it was neat (like the falling letters on a screen where the viewer becomes part of the image).

The hotel just opened this Spring. It’s a museum-hotel mix with various contemporary art pieces all over. The visit was much more fun than your usual hotel stay and it made me wish more hotels would put some interesting twist on the experience.



Sean Carroll 05.29.06 at 5:17 pm

Incredibly cool; I especially loved the falling letters. The idea (of a hotel filled with interactive art) is so obvious you wonder why it’s not done more often; but I suppose it’s a certain style that you either have to go all the way with or not.


Seth Edenbaum 05.29.06 at 5:27 pm

I think the video is by Kiarostami, though I don’t see it in museum list. If it isn’t, someone copped the idea.

Other than that the whole thing is a bit depressing; but it’s the wave of the future, and art has always been entertainment, whatever else we may pretend.


Eszter 05.29.06 at 5:37 pm

Sean – I think you’re right that you do have to take it somewhat seriously for it to work. But I agree with you that one wonders why there isn’t more of this around.

Seth – Can you say a bit more about why you find this depressing or what exactly you’re referring to when you say “the whole thing is a bit depressing”?


bruceo 05.29.06 at 10:11 pm

all the (ian schrager designed) morgans hotels have interesting installations. my favorite is at st. martins lane in london. all the room windows form a big grid facing the street (it’s in a converted business building). each room’s occupant can set the color of the rooms ambient light via a dial by the bed. the result: the front of the building is a multicolor checkerboard at night, with the colors different every night. pretty cool.

sadly, the morgans hotels are high end places. and for my taste, they steer too far to the left on the artsycomfort scale. i’ve seen the w chain do some interesting bits here and there (e.g. interactive cams in the elevators).

the best resource i’ve found for quirky hotels is tablet hotels.


Seth Edenbaum 05.30.06 at 10:23 am

Years ago I asked Dore Ashton if she thought art should be popular. She said the thought disgusted her. I didn’t think fast enough to ask about Shakespeare. These days I just ask people who they think is better: John Ford or Barnett Newman? That still causes trouble sometimes. And I hear there’s still a recurring dustup between fans of Boswell and Johnson.

Tony Ousler and Sam Taylor-Wood are PR hounds; Meyer Vaisman’s career is toast, and I recognize only a few other names. Guy-Ben Nur’s video of himself al la Robinson Crusoe standing marooned for a year on pile of sand in the kitchen of his apartment (in an Israeli housing block) is both depressing and hilarious.
And given that Kiarostami is one of the best filmakers of the last 20 years, and arguably Iran’s most important moral philosopher, I have the right to be a let down a little that some people will be introduced to his work-even a minor example- on the floor of an upscale Hotel in Missouri.


Tom F 05.31.06 at 12:07 pm

A dozen or so years ago I spent a few nights at the Sorat Art’otel in Berlin, which was pretty avant garde for me, but seemed appropriate for Berlin (I half expected to run into Dieter and his monkey in the bar…). But I wouldn’t have figured on stumbling into a place like that in Louisville, Kentucky.

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