Six new hotels fuse art and luxury in Melbourne

I love it when art and hotels come together. I found a pair of gems in Orlando back in March, but what’s coming to Melbourne, Australia over the next two years is even more exciting. Indy luxury hotel group Art Series Hotels is spending $300 million to open six new properties — all focused on art. Each hotel will be inspired by a famous Australian artist in name and design, and each will be unique.

The first opened its doors last week. The Cullen is a boutique hotel in Prahran, Australia. At a cost of $48 million, it offers only 115 rooms and is home to more than 450 pieces by Adam Cullen. An in-house curator attends to the artwork. Two of Cullen’s custom designed cows grace the foyer, welcoming guests to an aesthetic treat. There are traces of Cullen all over the hotel — from the restaurants to the phone messages to the bikes and smart cars that guests can hire. Rates start at $208 a night.

The Olsen, which will be Art Series Hotels’ flagship property, is set to open in February 2010. Honoring painter John Olsen, it will be located on Chapel Street, right in Melbourne‘s shopping district. There will be 239 rooms on 15 storeys and will feature the world’s largest glass-bottomed swimming pool … which will hang over Chapel Street. The third hotel, the Blackman, is scheduled to open in April, with the remaining properties scheduled for 2011.

Art Basel in Miami to get art market’s pulse

Next week, while shoppers will be dashing in and out of stores — and caving to the pressures of the holiday season — the art community will be feeling its own anxiety. Art Basel in Miami Beach, the top art show in the United States, kicks off on December 3, 2009. This event, the U.S. version of Switzerland’s Art Basel show, will bring more than 250 art galleries from around the world, showing 20th and 21st century pieces from more than 2,000 artists. The exhibitions will be held in Miami’s Art Deco District. Video, performance and public art will be on display, and collectors will have the chance to open their wallets.

The art community is pretty nervous. The market has spent the past year in a slump, with auction prices falling 70 percent or more and some collectors unable to sell their pieces, even when willing to accept such dismal prices. There are signs that the art market is recovering, but the near future is far from certain.

Interested attending? Through Ticketmaster, one-day tickets cost $35, with $55 for two days and $75 to attend the entire event (which ends on December 6, 2009). And, click here to see some of the other events that will be held alongside Art Basel.

[Painting by artist Benjamin Krell]

Six ways to enjoy Madison Square Park

Manhattan has a lot of great parks – but a handful tends to hog all the attention. Central Park is what it is; there’s just now way to compare it to anything else. Bryant Park has live performances and exhibitions (not to mention a starring role in Fashion Week) and is only a block from Times Square. And, there are others that would come to mind before you work your way down the list to one of my favorite open spaces in the city: Madison Square Park.

Don’t be misled – this park is nowhere near the “garden” of the same name. It sits between East 23d Street and East 26th Street and between Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue, in a small pocket of New York that most visitors tend to skip. So, catch the R or W train to the East 23d Street stop, and get ready to enjoy Madison Square Park in six different ways.

1. Take care of two buildings at once
The uniquely shaped Flatiron Building is right across the intersection from the southwest corner of the park, where Fifth Avenue and Broadway meet. What you may not realize, though, is that the northwest corner of the park (East 26th Street and Fifth Avenue) provides a great view of the Empire State Building. Crowds tend to form, for some reason, during morning rush hour (which sucks for the locals). Also, avoid lunch hour and evenings, as people who work nearby will get in the way of your shot.


2. Watch some television – live
It’s not unusual to find camera crews in and around Madison Square Park. Plenty of shows shot in New York use the space. So, while you wander through, you may be lucky enough to bump into one of your faves.

3. Go to the bathroom
If you aren’t fortunate enough to spot a celeb, drink some water. This will have the predictable effect and send you to one of only a handful of self-cleaning public toilets in the New York City. It’s on the southeast corner of Madison Square Park, and a quarter buys you 15 minutes. That should be plenty of time to take interior photos of the device that guest-starred on CSI:NY.

4. Enjoy some art
There’s always a public art display of some kind in Madison Square Park. Right now, it’s Markers, an installation by Mel Kendrick, a Boston-born artist who’s now a resident of New York. This project consists of five pieces reflect the “rippling surfaces contain the fossil memory of the actions taken over time.” Like almost all the public art in Madison Square Park, Kendrick’s installation is definitely worth a look.

5. Grab a bite
Sure, it’s tempting to head over to the storied Shake Shack in the southeast corner of Madison Square Park (near the toilet/TV star/murderer). But, if you’re looking for a substantial, enjoyable sit-down meal, go up to Ben & Jack’s Steakhouse, a few blocks north on East 28th Street and Fifth Avenue. Definitely make the ribeye your meal (it was amazing), but you’d be nuts not to start with the seafood platter. Take your time, and rest your feet for a bit, especially if you’ve been wandering around the city all day. The staff is attentive and accommodating, and they will not rush you. This is a great alternative to the long waits and hope-you-can-pull-it-off reservation situations at the steakhouses in mid-town. And, the dark-wooded interior drives home the insider feel that makes any steak dinner in Manhattan complete.

6. Grab a cigar (for those inclined)
For many, the only way to finish a hefty steak dinner is with a cigar. Go local with a stick from Martinez Cigars, a few blocks away on West 29th Street and Seventh Ave. Grab a maduro, and go back to the park (while you can still smoke there). If nobody’s around, chill for a bit on the new pedestrian area just west of Madison Square Park.

Vintage travel ads show artistry and wanderlust combined

Head back to the days when travel ads were works of art and the feeling of wanderlust can take over. There’s something about a harbor scene rendered in watercolors that evoke the feeling of romance and adventure. That was my first thought when I browsed through the “Destinations” section of the blog Creative Cloud’s bounty of vintage travel print ads.

The post includes 45 ads in all that have been divided into categories ranging from ads for airlines to ads for travel accessories. The ads also highlight how attitudes about travel have changed, as well as, the changes in what certain products once promised. One ad for Coppertone suntan lotion found under Travel Essentials, for example, touts that using the product can give you “younger skin tomorrow.” Haaa! It’s been awhile since that’s been part of public thinking.

The ads for airlines pay tribute to some that no longer exist like
TWA and Pan Am.

Whether you’re after a trip down memory lane or want to look at the artistry of when advertising once paid for artists to conceptualize an ad’s message, take time to browse. You may find yourself hunting down a vintage leather, hard-shell suitcase and a cream-colored linen suit for your next trip.

Thanks Gadling reader Andy for sending this visual treasure trove our way.

Montreal Musts, to do: Sample the art galleries

Montreal has an abundance of art galleries and museums, stretching from one side of the city to the other. But, if you’re looking for one spot where you can surround yourself with more galleries than you could conceivably enjoy in a day, head down to Old Montreal and explore la rue Saint-Paul Ouest. From la rue McGill to boulevard Saint-Laurent, it’s packed with galleries large and small, including some that are artist-owned and others that represent a broad spectrum of creative minds.

The first gallery that caught my eye was Galerie Elca London. Unique on St. Paul Ouest, Elca London focuses on art created by the Inuit. Sculpture and flat art are available and come to the gallery based on their availability. Unlike most, it buys the art rather than take it on consignment, and there are no entangling relationships that limit what it can carry. So, if it measures up to the standard, it lands on the shelves. Of course, the gallery’s theme is evident from the inventory – there are a lot of polar bears and native masks. You’re more likely to pick up a piece or two for your collection, I suspect, than make this the cornerstone of your home décor.

Atelier Art Bressan is a single-artist gallery, featuring the works of Pauline Bressan, though a few pieces by her daughter (also a talented artist) have found their way onto the walls. Bressan’s style is decidedly abstract, and her influences vary. One piece, for example, comes from the effect a Senegalese poem had on her. The artist has shown her work around the world – in France, the United States and many other countries – which supports the quality of her creations in terms of investment potential (something to keep in mind as the art market starts to work its way up from the floor).


One of my favorite art spots in Montreal is still Les Passants du Sans Soucy Auberge. A boutique hotel, its lobby includes a small art gallery, mostly featuring the works of Jacques Clement. Clement’s work includes more landscapes than it did last year (my first visit to this lobby gallery), but he still has enough work on the human body (which has a Francis Bacon style to it) to keep me excited.

Further up Saint-Paul Ouest, you’ll find several art galleries that are similar to what you’d find in New York: multiple artists are featured, and the work is stylish, modern and exciting. Galerie Le Luxart tops the list for me in this group, with a labyrinthine gallery featuring a variety of contemporary techniques that will definitely force you to stop and look for a while. Galerie Saint Dizier and Galerie le Royer are of the same ilk.

Of course, if street art is more your style, you’ll find murals painted on buildings throughout the city. For the best concentration, head up to the trendy Plateau neighborhood, where you’ll find carefully crafted graffiti art in many of the alleys.


Disclosure: Tourisme-Montreal picked up the tab for this trip, but my views are my own.