Contemporary Art at Le Méridien Chambers
Even the public bathrooms host video artwork in this highly cultural, downtown Minneapolis hotel
Some boutique hotels seem to add artwork to the lobby as an afterthought for sheer novelty. Real estate magnate Ralph Burnet (of Coldwell Banker Burnet), however, has been merging artwork and service for a unique experience since 2006, when he founded Chambers, a 60-room hotel in Minneapolis that features selections from his private art collection but also rotates through new works. Since then, it was bought by Le Méridien (which in turn, is owned by Starwood). While in town recently, we finally had the opportunity to experience Le Méridien Chambers after having it on our radar for so long, and the takeaway is this: it's a memorable stay that's just as enthralling as whatever else is on your itinerary.
About 250 contemporary art works from Burnet's private collection are on display throughout every nook and cranny of the hotel and it almost becomes a treasure hunt-like environment. Read a newspaper under Tracey Emin's neon work "Be Faithful to Your Dreams," (1998) in the lobby den, or walk by Sam Taylor-Wood's mesmerizing seven-minute film, "The Last Century" (2006), on the way to the ATM. The mix of videos, paintings, sculptures (including two giants sculpted by Martin Honert to a realistic-looking pile of garbage bags by Gavin Turk) and more penetrate the hallways to the guest rooms, so you're in contact with art more often than not.
It aims to break the deterring perception that art is only meant to be seen during limited hours of the day in a controlled gallery or museum environment; instead, the hotel has set up an open, inviting place for artwork to become part of your everyday routine (if only for a weekend). Furthering this idea of approachability is Clark Whittington's Art-o-Mat, a repurposed cigarette vending machine that dispenses matchbox-sized original works from local and national artists (one of many scattered throughout the country) for $5, and sits by the elevators.
Your hotel keycard (artist-designed, no less) also functions as a free pass to Minneapolis' famed Walker Art Center, where Ralph Burnet and his wife Peggy serve on the board of trustees. (We recommend hopping on a Nice Ride bike and taking a quick seven-minute spin to the Walker through Loring Park; both the hotel and art center are in close proximity to bike stations.)
Remnants of good times are noticeable in the luxury suite where we stayed, as the furniture and walls appear to have a few scuffs here and there, but the room was sparkling clean. Stained hardwood floors and minimalist furnishings are paired well with bright blue tiled bathrooms. One note is that because we were placed on the second floor, the room overlooked the brightly lit main drag—and we had to be conscious of pulling down the shades to maintain privacy at night. The five-story hotel is across the street from Orpheum Theatre and just a few blocks from venues like First Avenue and State Theatre.
Food-wise, new restaurant Marin replaced the former occupant, D’Amico Kitchen, earlier this year, and brings health-conscious plates to the table. The farm-fresh menu specifies everything from calories and grams of fat to gluten-free and vegan options. Aside from its outdoor (and dog-friendly) patio in the summer, Marin also has a nicely hidden bar—called The Library—downstairs that's especially cozy during Minnesotan winters.
The hotel does have its own gallery space, Burnet Art Gallery, which is open to the public. It typically hosts six solo exhibitions a year, the majority of which showcase local artists. During our visit, Andréa Stanislav's solo exhibition "Phase Velocity" was on view (and continues until 12 October 2014). Stuffed white birds, reflective pink cube mirrors and holographic collages featuring the female form made for a stimulating post-lunch walkthrough.
For those planning to visit Minneapolis over the upcoming US holidays, Le Méridien Chambers is a unique hotel that reflects the city's unequivocal, collective support for the arts. Regular rooms start at $209; luxury suites start at $399.
Images by Nara Shin