A Night At The Museum...Hotel
Upon my arrival in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, I was met by the Corporate Cab driver. After he picked up my luggage, he said, " You are going to The Museum Hotel?" I said that was correct. He then asked, " Have you been there before?" I said I hadn't. He then said, " Well, you will have in interesting time with all that ART."
It was the way he said ART that made me ask, " What do you mean?"
" Well' he said as we drove, " It is a unusual collection. Not ART as usually defined by many people. You'll see what I mean. Like, for example, he has a MOTORCYCLE in the lobby!"
Oh well, I thought, should I tell the Corporate Cab driver about a young entrepreneur I interviewed last year who had a 1950s Porsche lifted onto the mantelpiece of his new condo because he so enjoyed the clean lines of this great work of art? No, I figured I would just remain circumspect, and contemplate the hotel's history.
The Museum Hotel, owned by Chris Parkin, is one of the top ten art hotels in the world, according to Yahoo. It lies near the harbor in Wellington, NZ, and is across the street from the world renowned Te Papa Museum, dedicated to the history, art, and life of the Maori people. But the Museum Hotel was named prior to the Te Papa Museum being built. It was, in fact on the exact spot that the Te Papa was built. In 1993-4, Chris had the Museum Hotel MOVED across the street, a major engineering project, so the Te Papa could be built where it is today. But, where it was and where it is now, The Museum Hotel is a living repository for Chris's evolving and growing art collection.
Gallery: The Museum Hotel, New Zealand
" I wanted people to see what I liked, and wanted them also to see the variety of contemporary art that comes from New Zealand and elsewhere. That's why I put so many pieces of memorable artwork in diverse media at the Museum Hotel. It is one of a kind place, and I have no plans to replicate it!" said Chris. It is HIS hotel, with his evolving, unusual art collection.
The hotel is a perfect reminder that life imitates art, which in turn imitates life, ad infinitum. Nonetheless, it is a very comfortable hotel, and the in-hotel restaurant, Hippopotamus, is exceptional. Yet, wherever the guest turns from hotel room to restaurant to fitness center, a piece of art is there to challenge, impress, and question the guests' sensibilities. The hotel lobby was created by a theatrical set designer, and is, generally black, with dramatic lighting. Some of the more memorable pieces are in the lobby, the interior reception area, and in a glassed-in case as one drives into the exterior reception area of the hotel. If you look closely below, the image on the far right is a portrait, by Maurice Bennett, of the New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, created in small pieces of toast.
Perhaps this would be a good time to pontificate about the whimsy and irony of such eclectic, contemporary art – but it will be with just one sentence: often, such art is created to expand the viewer's comfort zone, in order to see and experience the subjects of the paintings in ways not considered before. So, in the lobby, are two very diverse paintings, and most especially for a hotel lobby and reception area. No idyllic countryside scenes here! The first (see below) is called Large Takahe With Sparrow, painted by Geoff Dixon, a New Zealand artist, one of Chris's favorites. A Takahe is an endangered bird, and the painting depicts the endangered and the common bird? man? life form? in the age of technology. The first image is a close-up of the painting, the second image defines its primary place in the hotel lobby:
One of the others, equally as dramatic, in the lobby area (see below) is of Willie Nelson, by portrait painter Stephen Martyn Welch, from Auckland. " It is the most commented on piece in the hotel collection." says Chris.
In yet another corner, close to this portrait, is a large shiny, red motorcycle, also considered more a piece of art than a riding machine. It is an MV Augsta Tamburini, f4-1000C, one of only 300 made in the world. Chris says that this motorcycle, one of a few in this hotel, exists to help people see there are many forms to art. " There is no HIGH art, just art." comments Chris.
To Chris, and to the many who stay for a night or two at the Museum Hotel, the experience is unique: staying in a comfortable contemporary art museum, where art and ambience, are equally parsed. Parkin is continually adding to the collection which currently stands at 66 pieces, and features works by renowned New Zealand artists such as Robin White, Sir Toss Woollaston, Bill Hammond, Dick Frizzell, Michael Smithers, Raymond Ching and Brent Wong. The collection, one of the largest in private ownership in New Zealand, is permanently exhibited throughout the hotel and in a new public gallery area. The Long Gallery was opened by Prime Minister John Key ( the gentleman with the edible TOAST portrait) in February, 2010.