Building foundations with Jean Nouvel and Frank Gehry
The ten-year milestone is an accomplishment for any enterprise, but in the arts especially, it is cause for celebration. Le Méridien celebrated the ten-year anniversary of its partner, the Outset / Frieze Art Fair Fund to Benefit the Tate Collection (OFT), with three days of art experiences leading into London's most prestigious art fair, Frieze London. The aim was to pique curiosity, inspire and engage with some of the great contemporary artworks brought to wider audiences by OFT. Le Méridien has supported Outset since 2008.
The eve of Frieze London's biggest-ever fair seemed the ideal time to begin the itinerary. And, as expansion seemed to be paramount in everybody's minds, Le Méridien Piccadilly invited leading art-world figures to discuss the issue of growth and sustainability in contemporary art. Outset co-founder Candida Gertler introduced Le Méridien's cultural curator Jérôme Sans, who moderated Frieze co-founder Amanda Sharp, Tate Modern's Mark Godfrey, Serpentine director Julia Peyton-Jones and Gagosian managing director of Europe Gary Waterston in a panel discussion. The burning question: Does size matter?
The overall consensus seemed to be that if you build it, people will come. It was a sentiment endorsed by Waterston, as, that week Gagosian had just opened a 1,500 sq m space outside Paris to accommodate the loftier works today's artists are creating. Similarly, Tate Modern's new Tanks are expected to help the gallery expand the scope of its exhibitions by allowing it to show them in a more intimate, focused setting, rather than in the cavernous annex, said Godfrey. Peyton-Jones referenced the Serpentine's expansion into the Serpentine Sackler Gallery when she said: 'Using different scales we have to make what we do particular to us, conceptually and practically.'
After the talk, the Le Méridien general manager and Sans hosted a dinner at Le Méridien Piccadilly Terrace Bar and Grill. Each dish of the five-course menu - developed by head chef Michael Dutnall and master mixologist Boris Ivan - was paired with an exclusive, inventive cocktail. The meal, like exciting contemporary art, provided guests with a new perspective on fine cuisine.
The subsequent days allowed guests to enjoy first-hand the positive effects of growth in London's art world, and the impact Outset has had on the city's most treasured collections. After a private tour of the Serpentine and lunch at the Natural Kitchen in Marylebone, Le Méridien organised a VIP tour of Frieze with Sans. At Outset's dedicated booth at Frieze, fashion designer Duro Olowu presented his limited-edition umbrellas, commissioned to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Outset Frieze / Art Fair Fund to Benefit the Tate Collection (OFT), which sources works at Frieze. With the help of Le Méridien, Outset has acquired 86 works for Tate at Frieze through OFT. This year's art fair is expected to bring that number closer to 100.
The final day was dedicated to London's two Tate galleries, partners of Le Méridien's Unlock Art™ programme, which gives members special access to selected museums in Le Méridien cities worldwide. At Tate Britain, the hotel led a private guided tour of the Turner Prize galleries before touring the works acquired for the museum by OFT at Frieze. The Tate-to-Tate boat ushered guests to Tate Modern, where the tour continued, followed by a browse around the Tate shop, where Olowu's umbrellas were on display.
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.