How Two Famous Art Collectors Founded a Growing Luxury Hotel Brand
21c Museum Hotels: consume global culture in multi-venue contemporary art museum, boutique hotel and chef-driven restaurant
Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson were long known to many as contemporary art collectors and hard-working conservationists, deeply committed to bringing art to the public through innovative programs that were a part of daily life.
The concept behind 21c Museum Hotels is a simple one to grasp: consume global culture while connecting with local communities, all within a multi-venue contemporary art museum, boutique hotel and chef-driven restaurant.
While all 21c Museum Hotels possess unique backgrounds and stories, the most interesting to examine is the Louisville location that gave the brand its start. The founders built it with the help of architect Deborah Berke, converting five 19th century warehouses into a 90-room boutique hotel, complete with what would become the brand's signatures: an on-site contemporary art museum, award-winning restaurant (in this case it was called Proof on Main), and a cultural civic center, all in the heart of Downtown Louisville.
The immense success of the popular and beloved Louisville property brought the chain its opportunities for continued growth. Today, the founders have forged a brand known for unique site-specific art installations, architecture, and design. Each restaurant within the brand is unique, dictated and driven by the world-class chefs chosen to oversee them. The idea is in keeping with the founders' background as the creators of public art programs: 21c Museum Hotels provide a chance to discover new artwork around every corner, artwork aimed at fueling creativity and igniting the minds of those who view it.
Visitors will find this artwork everywhere, including in the restaurant and bar, the in-room video art channel, elevator lobbies, hallways, and even inside public restrooms. This hybrid hotel concept has garnered attention and praise from such notable outlets as Condé Nast Traveler and The New York Times, which described it as "one of the pioneering examples of bridging the worlds of art and hospitality."
21c Museum Hotels has the following projects currently in the pipeline:
A partnership involving 21c Museum Hotels LLC of Louisville, Ky., closed on the purchase of Downtown's historic Hotel Savoy, 219 W. Ninth St., which will be transformed into a boutique hotel.
The project will include the rehabilitation of Old City Hall and the construction of a new addition on the adjacent parcel into a 21c Museum Hotel and unique tenant space.
The accompanying 135-room boutique hotel, which will also display art, will include a rooftop pool terrace, bar and lounge, a chef-driven food-and-beverage concept, and meetings and event space.
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