Building foundations with Jean Nouvel and Frank Gehry
Visitors to Le Méridien Etoile in Paris during FIAC were in for an interactive surprise. Alongside artists and Le Méridien staff, guests were invited by Chinese artist An Xiaotong to help her put the finishing touches to her Lego work, Constellation, in the hotel’s soaring glass foyer, on the occasion of Paris’ FIAC 2012 art fair. The eye-popping work is third in the artist’s triptych titled Creative Journey, which began at Le Méridien Shimei Bay and continued at Le Méridien Etiler Istanbul.
The occasion was momentous, even among the art world elite, who converged on the city during FIAC. Le Méridien has transformed itself into a veritable cultural institution since hiring the curator and enfant terrible Jérôme Sans to work with galleries, curators and artists worldwide to give Le Méridien access to a wealth of art. The hotel chain is now well known for giving guests an insider art experience. Likewise Sans, through his work founding the contemporary art space Palais de Tokyo, has become a darling of the city’s art establishment. In his hometown, Sans was able to give special guests of the hotel a very personal FIAC experience.
It began with the hands-on interaction with Xiaotong’s Constellation, an homage to the cosmos in red, yellow and black Lego blocks. Dinner followed, conceived by Etoile’s chef in collaboration with Xiaotong herself: French delicacies with a spicy, Chinese twist.
To help guests connect back to Xiaotong’s creative process, Sans organised a private visit to the Paris studio the artist shares with her husband Wang Du, where they viewed the evolution of Xiaotong’s work, from her evocative portraits to the current Lego series, along with Wang Du’s striking sculpture. There was then a private tour around the Palais de Tokyo’s ‘Imagine the Imaginary’ exhibition, in which artists from different generations capture the creative process through contemporary art. It was a rare opportunity to view the new Palais through the eyes of the man who helped launch it.
On the eve of FIAC’s opening to the public, Sans led the group on a private viewing of its most important works, among others, he stopped at two light boxes by the Californian multimedia artist Doug Aitken and the recent photography of Cindy Sherman. He also praised the installation work of South African artist Kendell Geers, a fellow maverick of the European art scene.
Sans welcomed Xiaotong and her husband along with guests and representatives from Le Méridien Etoile and its network of creative visionaries, the artists and curators that help the hotel maintain its cultural cachet.
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.