Not everyone in the museum world thinks that the key to growing audiences is inclusivity and diversity. In some quarters, exclusivity and elitism are the order of the day, used to attract audiences of a different character; people too busy to queue or who don’t like crowds and prefer a “private view” atmosphere, albeit one they pay for rather than access on merit. At this point I’m not judging the trend, but will return to it in a group of posts inspired by recent events, including the opening of fashion- and luxury-brand museums and the launch of new concierge and “passport” services.
But today’s re-post was inspired by an aspect of this trend, news of the “Museum Oscars”, which came via a tweet from CNN. Reporter Maureen O’Hare ponders “surprises” on the short-list and asks why certain “giants” of the museum world are absent. Her copy answers that question without spelling it out; these awards “honor the world’s most visionary art institutions and emerging cultural hotspots”, meaning places that change rather than those that stay the same.
The Leading Culture Destinations Awards boast a glamorous list of “Ambassadors”, a coterie of “cultural nomads” who exercise their taste in judgement, and such a media-friendly ploy guarantees high profile coverage. It may reek of hype (or is it just be a slow-news day) but the LCD website is sleek and impressive, suggesting that a substantial investment underpins the enterprise. Aside from organising the awards, LCD combines a luxury travel agency, publishing company (albeit online) and event management.
More on this phenomenon in the next post, but I’m mentioning it here because of the category “The Best Art Experience in a Hotel”, which got me excited as museums and hotels are two of my favourite things, so put them together! One nomination, The Gladstone, had just opened when I wrote about it and its near neighbour, The Drake Hotel, during Toronto’s Alternative Art Fair, which happens every November before winter weather sets in. Being “art hotels” the two venues give themselves over to installations and happenings. Back in 2006 I spent a couple of days at The Drake Hotel enjoying the gloriously balmy autumnal glow, culminating in a hotel-take-over by Peaches no less, who played an extraordinary set throughout the hotel, her exploits relayed via video link to screens dotted around the public spaces. The queen bee had the room next to ours, and after all the excitement was gracious enough to kick out her groupies, which lowered the decibels, so everyone got a good night’s sleep.
The Gladstone room that CNN rates with a mention is by Ghost Design, aka, Barr Gilmore and Michel Arcand. Suite 318, The Blue Line room works on the same principle as movie special effects, allowing guests to doctor-up their selfie shots by adding digital backgrounds. With this year’s Nuit Blanche, the all-night art rave, coming up on Saturday, perhaps it’s time to get a room…
Screen Shot of “The Blue Line” room in The Gladstone
Meanwhile, back in the day…
2 March 2006, p.18
Standfirst: Two trend-setting hotels in Toronto put the city’s classic Victorian architecture to good use — they have kept their accessible, bohemian roots, while offering a quirky design. Unique, rather than boutique is the way forward.
For one of the world’s most cosmopolitan and diverse cities, Toronto has a surprisingly unpretentious attitude. Even in the designated Art and Design District, identified by fancy street signs and a concentration of galleries, boutiques, designer eateries and creative businesses, the atmosphere is more inclusive than elitist, as you can tell from afternoons people-watching on (well-heated) café terraces.
Based on the North American urban ‘block’ model, with long boulevards and narrow cross streets, much of the city centre’s 19th-century architecture is deliciously ornate and on an industrial scale. The fortunes of some neighbourhoods declined, so that many buildings were left mercifully alone. A profusion of building stock, ready and waiting to be renovated and reused, is what drew artists and savvy developers to the Art and Design District, located at the western end of Queen Street, or West Queen West to its friends.