An interview with Art Curator, Lily Ackerman of Ackerman Studios
Hotel art stopped being a decorative afterthought long ago.
Today’s big players feature work and sometimes entire collections to rival that of local galleries, with some even upping the ante by collaborating with the artists themselves.
When used properly, artwork becomes an integral part of the guest experience, enhancing not just the design narrative, but the entire brand image.
Lily Ackerman, Ackerman Studios
Someone who has plenty to say on the power of art collections within the hospitality sector and how they can further connect to customers is Lily Ackerman from Ackerman Studios – an art consultancy specialised in building art collections and art programming for hospitality.
Lily collaborates with artists and interior design studios on how best to incorporate art into hospitality projects.
With over a decade of experience, she prides herself on working with both established and emerging artists and focussing on the narratives underpinning each project – she’s recently worked with Peter Blake and David Bailey amongst others.
Here, Lily shares ideas and tips to help make a statement of the art in any hospitality establishment.
GS: As a curator, where do you start on a project?
LA: The starting point of each project is always the client’s overall goal.
I always seek to understand as much as possible about the space we are working with, who is using it and how along with understanding the history and location.
From here I can build a solid picture of what I feel will work, and where they may need to change direction.
GS: Do you always look to create a theme?
LA: Within reason, yes.
Ackerman Studios curates in non-traditional spaces and settings and the cohesiveness of a theme often helps unite disparate artworks.
For the art programming at 45 Park Lane, I curate exhibitions based on a number of factors.
Of course the client’s requirements, but also always thinking about the heritage and the artwork in the rooms upstairs.
I also think about what is exciting now in the art and cultural world – particularly in London as the hotel is such a hub for the surrounding area.
Art curation caters to the personality of a space and not many places can take the big changes in art we have had at 45 Park Lane, but because the architecture is so strong, it can hold all kinds of art of varying mediums and scale.
Exterior art posters at 45 Park Lane (Dorchester Collection) by Hormazd Narielwalla
GS: You refer to ‘art programming’. What is that?
LA: In terms of an art programme, this can be scaled up or down as required by the client and event.
We can span a series of rotational exhibitions, including artist talks, dinners, and curator-led tours to partnerships with art fairs and other arts organisations.
These limited-edition prints were turned into flags and adorned the exterior of the hotel, emulating coronation flags, whilst his solo exhibition was on display inside the hotel.
Interior art at 45 Park Lane by Hormazd Narielwalla
GS: Modern or Classical?
LA: Both – one cannot exist without the other!
It is always about the old and new, particularly in travel and our programming reflects that.
Visitors that come to the hotel are wanting to discover new things and have new experiences, to really feel the energy of London, but at the same time, they want to experience the heritage of the city and Mayfair where 45 Park Lane is situated.
Exterior art posters at 45 Park Lane (Dorchester Collection) by Hormazd Narielwalla
GS: In the luxury market, is it ever appropriate to use prints instead of originals?
LA: Yes, depending on the print!
The term ‘print’ spans a huge range of things. I would never use reproduction prints, however, that is vastly different to limited edition prints that I’ve often shown as part of an exhibition.
Monoprints or silkscreen prints can be a fabulous way of making sure art collections have a variety of artists included at differing price points.
Lots of artists also make monoprints, these are prints which are then hand-worked over by the artist – which is a good way of merging something accessible with a bespoke feel.
GS: Should hotels/restaurants rotate/change the art on display and, if so, how often?
LA: This is entirely dependent on the concept and how it’s being managed.
If a hotel has a fabulous collection of permanent artworks, just like a museum or a gallery, it makes sense to build programming around this – sometimes loaning works to exhibit alongside the permanent collection and bringing in guest curators to do this.
The power of artwork to change a space is momentous.
For hotels and restaurants wanting to rebrand and refresh, investing in artworks is a clever way of elevating a space with minimal disruption.
Art by Bonnie & Clyde, displayed at Paradise Green
GS: How do you feel about art in hotels being available for sale?
LA: This is really dependent on the location and concept within the space, some hotels do this wonderfully – they make works available for the public or in some cases for guests and VIP guests.
This only tends to work in specific circumstances though, where art is at the core of the hotel’s identity.
GS: In your opinion, which city hotels ‘get it right’ in terms of their hotel art?
LA: 45 Park Lane is committed to being a serious exhibition space in a way that is unusual in hospitality.
It attracts established artists and also gives the opportunity for emerging creatives to showcase their work in an incredible Central London heritage space.
They are always open to pushing the boundaries in programming too.
For example, in September, we’re collaborating with The Artisan Collab, a truly unique gallery space based in Petworth Sussex – they’ll be taking over the space to exhibit an international selection of modern artisans and makers.
At the other end of the scale, contemporary hotel The Hoxton, has great art and a varied artist programme.
I loved their Hoxton Holborn rebrand with charity and social enterprise Artbox London.
The Hoxton really thinks through how the artwork fits with each of its neighbourhoods and has created a community around this.
They often go to great lengths to support artists in the locality of each hotel.
Barge art by Sir Peter Blake
GS: Are there any no-nos? In other words, what do you always advise not to do?
LA: Following any specific ‘trends’ in art is never a good idea, they become outdated quickly.
It’s important to collaborate with interior design and to respond to this direction – sourcing the artworks accordingly.
That said, I never rely solely on interior designers to source the artwork as this can be out for their remit.
Always make sure there is a budget allocated to this as a stand-alone and that thought has been given to the narrative of the art in the space.
In some cases bring on an art consultant to manage this separately.
And finally, it’s an exhibition space and should be treated in the same way – research, research and more research – don’t just go for well-known and established artists who may be more associated with hotels already.
Artist Sir Peter Blake with Prue Freeman, owner of Daisy Green Collection
GS: Could you give our readers some useful tips for when they are starting out on their ‘art journey’?
LA: Spend some time thinking about what you personally enjoy from an art perspective, and seek out places and spaces that you feel fit with what you want to create.
I would always recommend seeking out professional advice: in some cases, bring on an art consultant to show you some different possibilities and expand your knowledge.
Engage in the art world around you – attend private views, galleries, art school openings and art events near the hospitality space to get an understanding of these, and specifically, what’s going on in the area.
I think hotels can be really great microcosms of the area they are situated in and that’s something unique to be explored.
Always think about the artwork as a storytelling tool – what do you want the art to say?
How do you want it to connect with visitors?
Can you tell the brand story through these?
Can you elevate a previously overlooked space?
Lastly, don’t be afraid of commissions – these offer up a great way of transforming hospitality spaces through the clever use of site-specific installations.
Sometimes a one statement piece is all it takes for a hotel to be considered an ‘art hotel’ .
Interior art at 45 Park Lane by Hormazd Narielwalla.