As Banke Okunola walks into the lobby of Radisson Blu Anchorage Hotel on Victoria Island, the crystal water cascading down the glass wall and the bright coloured painting hanging on the opposite hall catches her attention. The hues of colours resonate with her instantly and she could not help but move close to the painting to check for the artist’s name before moving to the front desk to make a reservation.
Hotels have always had artwork on their walls but today the concept is being stretched to new limits. Most boutique hotels are now replacing hospitality-as-theater as we know it with hospitality-as-installation-art.
Around the globe and Nigeria is not an exception, hoteliers are working with artists to create environments with a sense of style and authenticity. A move that designers describe as an explicit retort to the boutique hotel formula. The contemporary furniture, dimmed hallways and artworks are backlash against the democratisation of design.
Fashion and interior decor designer, Nikki Khiran says using artworks to fill up empty spaces in architectural design is one of the ways hoteliers are seeking new ways of standing out as they are springing up in their dozens. But the hoteliers say it is a way to show the tastes of a generation that has come of age in a flat world.
In addition to artworks, hotels are seeking to make the arts experience emcompassing. At night, and there’s nightly live music at the bar, which maintains a crowd of regulars from around the Victoria Island and Lekki neighbourhood at the Radisson Blu and Eko Hotel and Suite including Oriental Hotel.
Luxuriously styled by famed Swedish hospitality designer, Christian Lundwall, with the architecture design by Moyo Ogunseinde, executive director, business development, uraga real estate, the five-star hotel accommodation offers 170 rooms and suites decorated in two original styles, Urban and Ocean. Standing out among hotels in Lagos, all of these spacious, modern rooms, which range from Standard to opulently furnished suites, feature spectacular views of the Lagos Lagoon or the city. All rooms have both bathtubs and walk-in showers.
For most hoteliers, it is not just about commissioning different artists to design each of the rooms, it is about encouraging individuality and creativity in the arts. “We just want to provide a creative, relaxing and functional space says, Ogunseinde, “we wanted a beautiful space with the rooms with functional needs for guests.”
For some architects, there is nothing new about the relationship between fine art and fine hotels as guest are experiencing museum quality art at in hotels. But this may be taking a new dimension globally. Hoteliers have generously granted talented artists the chance to present their pieces in lobbies and lounges which is the case in some hotels in Nigeria like the Nicon Hilton in Abuja. But over the past few years, more hotels are not only putting up artworks on the walls, they are embarking on ambitious arts programs that are literally transforming them into true cultural destinations. And so, hotels are proving that culture and hospitality can go hand in hand.
In the lobby at the ground floor of Hilton in Abuja, guests will find exhibited artworks by different artistes most of them unknown. Yet guests have a rare and new opportunity to experience museum-quality art in a friendly, relaxed and personal environment.
“This is a good idea,” says Ogunseinde. It allows beauty and encourages guests from all works of life of people to experience art in a way that was previously only available to a select few. Art in hotels is nothing less than taking pretence out of art viewing.”
Oba Otudeko, chairman, Honeywell Group, says the aesthetics of Radisson Blu creates a new milestone in the Nigerian hospitality business landscape. The sheer beauty of viewing the Lagoon and the general aesthetics of the lobby means a game change in the hospitality business. “It is about beauty, quality service and excellence offered in the right kind of environment. We can assure you that guests who will come into our hotel has never seen the kind of hospitality in Nigeria before because we took great care in deciding on the design.”
Even in the ECOWAS sub-region, hoteliers are becoming aware of the importance of paintings on their walls. They are beginning to see art differently.
Andrew Asare-Boafo, director of sales, Movenpick Ambassador Hotel Accra, saysa visit to a branch of GTBank in Accra changed his perception of visual art.
He was impressed by the many artworks sourced from Nigeria, Ghana and Gambia that soften the banking environment from being too official. From reception, lobbies, restaurants, bars, lounges and even in the lift, these artworks keep guests alive with African heritage.
Today, the hotel has over 1500 pieces of artworks sourced from local artists. The aesthetic appeal, the artistic concept they display and the beauty are what marvel the general manager. These features, according to Shola Adeyemo of Transcorp Hilton Abuja, also entice guests.
By that singular patronage, the hotel has encouraged creativity and impacted on the economy of the host community, but most importantly, bring art closer to corporate world.
In the board, offices, bars and restaurant of the Nigerian Breweries headquarters in Lagos, the story is not different. The foremost brewery keeps its staff refreshed from stress of their job with beautiful paintings, carvings and drawings that bring back smiles of their faces when stressed up.
An anonymous staff of the company notes that art is life, peaceful and serene and should be encouraged in workplace. While you are busy scrolling the calendar or looking through the notice board, most foreign staff fete on artworks hanging on the wall and by the lobby. They get more composed when the meeting eventually holds.
Ademola Adetunji, a chartered accountant with First City Monument Bank, says most corporate world managers are more aware of artwork beyond decoration today than before. “My father retired as finance director of conglomerate, but I can’t recall visiting his office because it was all about files and orders to subordinates. My office is different. I personally bought some pieces of artwork to improve my office ambiance”.
Adetunji insists that today, executive status within a company often depends on whether the executive has a window with a view, a painting, a plant, or just a pencil cup in his office. In fact, a whole industry has grown up to provide suitable office surroundings, and numerous firms work full time searching for and buying art to place in corporate offices, lobbies, and public areas.
With the development, some companies go all out to acquire artworks to make a difference in their ambiance. However, some are sponsoring art exhibition with the hope of harvesting artworks that will beautify their offices spaces.
Nigerian Breweries is doing so with the Art Foundation by Azubogu.
Again, Sinmidele Ogunsanya, the proprietress/curator of Mydrim Gallery, thinks better efforts at marketing art in recent times, growing awareness of artwork auction and collaboration of corporate organisations with galleries, artists and interior decorators have all contributed in giving art a breathing space in the corporate world.
The many corporate guests at the opening of the refurbished Didi Museum in Victoria Island, Lagos did not leave without picking a piece of art on display. But the concern of the art sector is for the trend to be sustained, while the artist hopes to get better appreciation in cash and not in handshake for his works.