San Francisco Examiner
IS IT A HOTEL OR AN ART GALLERY?
By Bill Picture
Thursday, June 24, 2004
The owners of the new Hotel des Arts used Europe's art hotels as a model to transform a quaint but rather tired tourist hold-up into a slick, gallery-type space showcasing the talents of local emerging artists.
"A lot of hotels here in (San Francisco) work with local galleries and install a couple of paintings," says hospitality industry veteran and art collector Hero Nakatani, general manager of the Hotel des Arts. "But what we did was we turned the hotel itself, the entire building, from the lobby to the guest rooms, into a gallery."
The turn-of-the-century boutique hotel on Bush Street, which once housed a German bakery, underwent a yearlong top-to-bottom renovation process, its 51 rooms and suites completely redone in a muted palette that Nakatani says helps frame the art hanging on the hotel's walls.
"We wanted the art itself to be the focus of the room," he explains. "So the colors we chose are very neutral and the furniture is comfortable but modern and very minimalist so as not to detract from the art."
Unlike most hotels, where art is considered simply a decoration, the Hotel des Arts' creators consider the art hanging on the walls of their Union Square-adjacent establishment to be the real attraction. The building, as they see it, is there to complement the art.
"Art in hotels tends to be lowest-common-denominator artwork," says John Doffing, whose Start Soma gallery was hired to help curate the gallery-hotel. "It's chosen to match the bedspread and the curtains. What Hero (Nakatani) had in mind was almost revolutionary -- showing edgy, underground street art in this rather pristine environment, which really turned me on."
Nakatani and Doffing agreed on native San Francisco graffiti artist Sandro Tchikovani, who goes by the tag name MISK, to christen the Hotel des Arts' empty walls.
"(Sandro's) work is very dynamic," says Nakatani. "It's big and it's colorful and very graphic."
"Hero has this idea of showing downtown artwork uptown," adds Doffing, "and Sandro fit that perfectly. I mean, here we are showing the work of an underground artist whose preferred medium is spray paint in an upscale hotel. Talk about pushing the envelope."
Like the established galleries just down the street from the Hotel des Arts, the artwork on display will be changed out every few months and everything is for sale. In fact, several of Tchikovani's pieces were sold to local collectors before the "show" had even finished being hung.
"That just goes to show you that there's a need out there for this type of thing," says Doffing. "There's a demand for edgy, affordable, original art that the big galleries are choosing to ignore."
Hotel des Arts
447 Bush St., San Francisco. Call (415) 956-3232. For more information on Sandro Tchikovani's show, visit www.startsoma.com and www.misk1.com.