At a number of Palm Beach County’s leading hotels and resorts, art is as much a part of the experience as the palm trees. Paintings, sculptures, photographs and decorative items created by both local artists and top international talent have been carefully selected to set the tone, offer a cultural encounter and immerse guests in one-of-a-kind Palm Beach County hospitality.
A recent redesign at The Colony Hotel, which has been at the center of Palm Beach society since 1947, used a variety of artworks – and art forms – to surround guests with color and local flair. “We wanted to have as many local artists represented as possible,” says Carleton Varney of Dorothy Draper & Co., who coordinated the effort.
Photo murals of life-size polo players by Wellington-resident Harry Benson who famously photographed the Beatles, U.S. presidents and other world figures for the likes of Life, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker inspire guests in the Polo Lounge. Local artist Bruce Helander painted the columns in the lounge to look like martinis, Cosmopolitans and Manhattans. Accenting the hotel’s traditional British Colonial style, a giclee print by part-time Palm Beacher Edwina Sandys hangs in several of the rooms and suites. The humorous piece depicts her grandfather, Winston Churchill, at work on one of his own paintings. To carry out the flower theme that runs throughout the hotel, handpainted hibiscus paintings by West Palm Beach-based artist Noelle McCarthy are featured in the bathrooms.
“When you walk into the Colony you know you are in Palm Beach,” Varney says.
Photos of the Colony’s “who’s who” list of visitors, ranging from European royalty and American politicians to entertainers who have performed in the Colony’s Royal Room, hang in the lobby beneath white birdcage chandeliers that were first featured at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The centerpiece of the hotel: a 1,300–pound, tiered chandelier made from 637 hand-hung, green crystal pendants. Whether decorative pieces or fine art, all of the works play a role in immersing guests in the Old-World charm of Palm Beach culture and society while echoing the beautiful environment that’s right outside the door.
At Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, renowned designer and seasonal resident Jonathan Adler is the force behind the display of art. As part of a chic redesign following the resort’s transition from a Ritz-Carlton to an independent resort in 2013, Adler and his team thoughtfully selected pieces that would share with guests Eau’s particular style story, described as a nod and a wink to classic Palm Beach style but with a twist.
Inside guestrooms, an endearingly quirky photo of a family out for a drive on the water in an “Amphicar” adorns the walls. Called “Sea Drive,” the iconic image by society photographer Slim Aarons – who was revered from the 1950s through the ’80s for his photographs of socialites, jet setters and celebrities – is just one of a variety of artworks that offer a playful nod to sophistication.
Aarons’ work sets the tone. In addition to “Sea Drive,” the resort selected to hang prints of his “Beauty and The Beast,” a seductive photo of Lady Daphne Cameron sitting on top of a tiger-skin rug inside the home of Palm Beach socialite Laddie Sanford. To further evoke the feeling of a luxurious beachfront resort, a large-scale copy of a watercolor seahorse by Jenna Synder-Phillips hangs in guestrooms and a bright print of a neon yellow parakeet by Leila Jeffries can be found in the water closets. New York-based artist (and head of creative development at Bobbi Brown cosmetics) Donald “Drawbertson” Robertson was commissioned to create something special for the resort. The result is a painting depicting a multigenerational family in Lilly Pulitzer-esque beachwear with a bright sun and ocean in the background, copies of which can be seen in the guestrooms.
The Boca Raton Resort & Club – in collaboration with Baker Sponder Gallery – goes a step further in its use of art, offering guests a museum quality experience as part of their stay. A collection of sculptures from leading international artists is on display in a surprising variety of indoor and outdoor locations. All of the pieces, which are for sale and which feature plaques with information about the artist and the work, can be viewed through a self-guided tour featuring both audio and web components.
“Family” by New York-based Israeli artist Boaz Vaadia is a favorite among guests. The figures of a mother, father and child, made from layers of chiseled stone in Boaz’s signature style, sit at the entrance to the resort, as if welcoming guests. “The Golden Mean” by Carole Feuerman, who is known around the world for her startlingly life-like sculptures, is a 16-foot bronze statue of a male diver balancing on his hands. Poised, ready to make a splash, he is appropriately installed at the resort’s oceanfront element, the Boca Beach Club.
At The Breakers in Palm Beach, it’s not at all uncommon to see guests gazing upward in awe at the ornately hand-painted ceilings in the lobby. A defining feature of the resort, the barrel-vaulted ceiling features a 200-foot fresco packed with flora, fauna, gods and goddesses and freeform decorations.
In the 1920s, famed architect Addison Mizner luxuriously linked the Palm Beaches with the Old World through his grand Mediterranean Revival-style buildings. In 1926, when The Breakers was rebuilt following a fire, the Italian-Renaissance style was chosen for the same reasons that the Colony is now wreathed in color. The design for the lobby was inspired by the Great Hall of the Palazzo Carrega Cataldi in Genoa, Italy; 73 Florentine artists were brought in to complete the ceiling fresco in time for the winter season.
Whether reflecting the area’s legendary past or a new take on Palm Beach luxury, it comes as no surprise that exceptional works of art are also part of the hospitality experience in Florida’s Cultural Capital® – Palm Beach County. Statues, paintings, prints, photography, textiles and color add atmosphere, style and a cultural dimension to the guest experience. Above all, the art on display in the area’s leading hotels and resorts helps establish a sense of place so that visitors will know they have arrived.