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Art of the Matter

Art can bring a space to life, helping to create just the right mood and atmosphere. Terry Eaton, president and chief curator of Eaton Fine Art, discusses art’s role in the guest experience and trends to look out for.

When the coronavirus pandemic has resolved and travel resumes, do you expect there to be any evolution in the way that guests experience the hotel? What role will art play in that?
I believe travel will continue to be a way people escape and find comfort. New hotel projects and renovations will provide comfort and calmness to an even greater level than before. Art plays a crucial role in this because we know that visual stimulation can impact how people feel within an environment or how they connect with a hotel brand’s narrative.

You’re anticipating uplifting visuals will be prominent in the upcoming years. Why? How do you see this playing out?
Throughout history, we can see how art trends react to the surrounding world. In some instances, art provides an escape for people from their reality, which is why I believe uplifting visuals will be prominent in the coming years. There is no denying we are all going through hard times, and we want the art that we collaboratively curate to help guests feel a sense of hope and comfort when they look at the pieces.

I see the rise in the living coral color and use of neon lighting. Both of these elements are fun and happy and present a sense of whimsy. When everything in the world is very serious, art is the place that can be loose and fun where appropriate.

Acre 41 at The Otis

No hotel wants to look exactly like any other, and yet, trends do exist. How does a hotel ensure it’s keeping to its own look and feel, while incorporating art that may fit in with current trends?
We always keep our minds and eyes open. The idea of art has certainly changed since Eaton Fine Art was founded almost 30 years ago, and that is part of what keeps our job so exciting. Art can be so many different things to so many different people.

When curating an art collection, we look for something that is ultimately going to embody and fulfill the creative narrative for the project. When selecting the artists, we want to ensure they are able to do that. Many times, we will collaborate with artists who are locally based, but sometimes we source artists nationally and internationally. That aspect really depends on the client. What’s most important to us across the board is that when bringing people onto a project that we are collaborating with them. That is the ethos of Eaton Fine Art.

With our recent work at the Otis Hotel, Autograph Collection, and AC Hotel Austin-University, a dual-branded hotel located in Austin, TX, the goal was to connect to the surrounding Austin culture and landscape. For Acre 41, a modern, upscale neighborhood restaurant with locally sourced menu options, we curated a mix of photography, prints, and objects that reference Austin as the live music capital of the world. We also included underwater photography and references to water with subtle placements of objects like a pair of vintage swimming goggles on the wall.

These small touchpoints make the space unique to Austin but with a refined and sophisticated approach that remains true to the Marriott brand.

In addition to living coral and neon lighting, we’re seeing more pop culture influence, fantasy inspiration, mixed media and abstract painting. On a personal level, do any of these intrigue you the most? 
I am intrigued by these trends because each of them creates a dynamic conversation about the art for the viewer. When you look at a piece of art that has a pop culture reference, some people will understand it instantly and others may not realize the cultural significance right away. I like when art creates an open dialogue between people. That can also be said with abstract paintings. Because they are abstract, there is no right way to interpret or view the piece. By sparking discussions, you can foster creative collaboration amongst people who will go on to create even more brilliant works.

Holston House Nashville – Unbound Collection by Hyatt

Are there any recent projects you’ve worked on where you’ve seen these trends executed particularly well? Tell me about them.
We curated an art collection at the Holston House Nashville – Unbound Collection by Hyatt in Tennessee that included neon lighting as well as several mixed media pieces and abstract paintings.  We are also including the color living coral in many of the art pieces for the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf, Club & Spa in Carlsbad, CA, as well as for other projects currently in progress. Several other projects we are curating now include fantasy inspiration such as the golden age of travel mixed with tropical elements, too. For a large, ongoing project in Las Vegas, we have included a lot of artwork with a pop culture reference in both the guest rooms as well as the public areas.

Are there any art trends you see going by the wayside—or any you wish the industry would eliminate?
I see the dominance of ‘street art’ diminishing from its peak two to four years ago. We try not to curate art programs around trends but rather what is most appropriate for the project, the narrative and the demographic of the guests.