Building foundations with Jean Nouvel and Frank Gehry
Vienna’s almost insouciant blending of modern and historical is aptly expressed at the city’s Le Méridien Vienna. Its classic, haute imperial exterior opens into a sleek and contemporary lobby that could easily do double duty as one of Vienna’s many ultra-modern art spaces. This unusual juxtaposition of old and new formed the ideal backdrop for the latest Outset Le Méridien Talk Series that was held during September’s VIENNAFAIR, the city’s annual contemporary art fair.
Given the role of photography and its derivative forms in recent current affairs, the weighty topic – ‘Truth or lies? Aesthetic and Documentary Strategies in Contemporary Culture’ – was the basis for a timely panel discussion. The debate was chaired by Christian Holler, editor of the contemporary art magazine, Springerin, and it brought to the stage a powerhouse panel that included the artists Anne Hardy and David Rych, alongside Sabine Folie, artistic and managing director of the Generali Foundation in Vienna, and Jeanette Pacher, curator at the Secession gallery.
For the audience, a lively cross section of Vienna’s art mavens and hipsters, it was a chance to segue from the day’s gallery viewings to participate in an intense and often provocative discussion about how individual realities are constructed in an age flooded with information.
Later, guests enjoyed cocktails and canapés prepared by Le Méridien’s crack food and beverage team. For many, this was also a golden opportunity to tour the hotel’s extensive, quirky art collection scattered throughout the public corridors, spaces and lobby. A highlight of the collection was the dazzling chandelier comprised of 300 illy art espresso cups, designed by celebrated artists including Julian Schnabel, David Byrne, Francis Ford Coppola and :mentalKLINIK, an LM100™ member.
An unforgettable satellite event was Anne Hardy’s moving solo show, alongside the presentation of her new monograph, at Secession, Le Méridien Vienna’s Unlock Art partner. For Le Méridien, it was a perfect expression of its support for the arts and Hardy’s unique visual language. The new monograph, in particular, was designed in close collaboration with London graphics team Åbäke.
When Starwood Hotels acquired Le Méridien in 2005, it immediately set about injecting the group’s French heritage with a jolt of cultural modernity. With more than 100 properties in 50 countries worldwide, the project was ambitious, but with creative input from Le Méridien’s cultural curator Jérôme Sans, the result is an intelligent synthesis of individually distinct properties within their respective cultural settings. Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts have been transformed into staging areas for contemporary artworks by both established and up-and-coming artists and through partnerships with local cultural institutions, the group has forged a place for itself at the core of the art world. Via the Unlock Art™ programme, guests’ key cards designed by LM100™ members are literally a complimentary ticket to a city’s leading art forums. By any measure, the group’s elevation of the quotidian hotel experience into a cultural one is inspirational.