It seems like Brooklyn is full of hotels now — the Hoxton, the William Vale, and the recently-opened Ace are three that come to mind — but even amid the new openings, the Wythe Hotel is still the coolest. Opened in 2012 in an abandoned cooperage on the Williamsburg waterfront, the Wythe Hotel was Brooklyn’s original boutique hotel. From its industrial-inspired design to its French brasserie and hip rooftop bar, it embodies the ethos of Brooklyn. But perhaps the most unique aspect of the hotel is its art collection, which includes hundreds of works on paper as well as large-scale murals and paintings by 60 artists exhibited in the rooms and public spaces.
“Originally the idea was to build something that really belonged in Brooklyn because at the time that didn’t exist as far as a hotel was concerned,” Peter Lawrence, co-owner of the Wythe Hotel, told Brooklyn Magazine. He and his partners, real estate developer Jed Walentas and restaurateur Andrew Tarlow (who’s no longer involved with the hotel) wanted to tell the story of Brooklyn — Williamsburg in particular — as a community of artists who were drawn to the spacious lofts, and through their energy and creativity, transformed the formerly gritty neighborhood into the vibrant cultural destination it is today.
Lawrence and his partners tapped Brooklyn-based artist Tom Fruin to create the iconic Hotel sign on the building’s exterior and worked with Steve “ESPO” Powers and Duke Riley, who contributed pieces to the public spaces. But when it came time to put art into the hotel’s 70 rooms, they needed some help. So they hired another local artist, Kimia Ferdowsi Kline, to be the hotel’s art curator. A talented painter who’s extremely plugged into Brooklyn’s art scene, Kline has gradually built up the hotel’s collection, which contains works by Brad Kahlhamer, EJ Hauser, Jason Stopa, Michelle Segre, Susumu Kamijo, Kathy Bradford, Chris Martin, Marina Adams, and Rachel Eulena Williams, among others.
“I think the fact that I’m a practicing artist gives me a different level of access to the creative community in Brooklyn,” Kline says. “We’re not selling prints in our lobby, we’re not ordering art from Target or Amazon for our walls. Everything is made by hand, by an artist, in their studio, sometimes just down the street from the hotel. I think the curation and the collection really tangibly show the intimacy and trust we’ve built with artists and continue to build.”
Before the pandemic, Kline organized art openings — held whenever all the rooms on a given floor had art installed — commissioned rotating art exhibits for the lobby, invited artists to come for residencies, and hosted draw-a-thons. Though the pandemic put a damper on events, they’re slowly coming back, starting with draw-a-thons and cinema screenings.
“Hosting events where artists can come together and share ideas and celebrate one another’s work is transformative,” Kline says, adding, “Because nothing is for sale, we are completely side-stepping the art market. It’s just about celebrating the wealth of creativity and genius that exists in Brooklyn, and trying our best to transmit that energy to our guests.”
On December 8th at 12 p.m., Kline will give Untapped New York Insiders a virtual tour of the hotel’s art collection and an inside look at her curation process, starting with studio visits. She’ll highlight a few of her favorite pieces from the hotel’s permanent collection, explain the hotel’s curation philosophy and how it focuses on community building, and give some insight into the hotel’s public programming. The event is free for Untapped New York Insiders (and get your first month free with code JOINUS).
Tour of the Wythe Hotel’s Art Collection
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