Philippe Starck elevates Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris to a work of art.
By Laurie Kahle, December 27, 2011
When Le Royal Monceau opened in 1928, Paris was a magnet for artists who rebelled against convention to usher in a new age of modernism. A similar visionary spirit infuses the hotel’s recent reinvention under the auspices of the exuberant French designer Philippe Starck. Contemporary art is central to Starck’s concept for the new Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris, which reopened in December 2010 after a three-year transformation. While many five-star hotels showcase impressive art collections, Le Royal Monceau cultivates an artistic culture that is expressed through an extensive assemblage of eclectic works, an art bookstore carrying more than 700 titles, a 99-seat cinema for film screenings, a gallery space for public exhibitions, and Paris’ only art concierge, who advises and guides guests who wish to immerse themselves in the Parisian art scene.
The position was Starck’s idea, explains Domoina de Brantes, a 30-year-old former gallery owner, who edits the hotel’s art blog and produces a weekly newsletter of recommended exhibitions that is posted in every guestroom. De Brantes also consults with guests to create personalized art and cultural programs or to organize guided or private viewings; she even can assist with art acquisitions. “I am ready to answer any request,” she says. “We specialize in contemporary art because Philippe Starck wanted to give a special twist to this hotel. But of course, if guests want something classical or even something design- or fashion-related, we’re happy to assist.”
In contrast to the minimalism of some of his previous hotel projects, Starck indulges his fantastical imagination at Le Royal Monceau with a mindboggling array of details in a warm and inviting atmosphere, where each nook and cranny offers something to contemplate. Public and private spaces are adorned with countless photographs, sketches, books, objets d’art, and curios—from exotic insects in tiny glass cases to large-scale installations commissioned from prominent artists. French artist Stéphane Calais, evokes a Parisian garden with his ceiling fresco in the French restaurant, La Cuisine, where the walls are covered with paintings, sketches, and photographs. Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos created an oversized teapot sculpture for the hotel garden, and Russian artist Nikolas Polissky produced dozens of hunt-inspired animals in natural, unpolished wood for display on a staircase landing.
The hotel’s curator Hervé Mikaeloff, who also consults for LVMH, orchestrates the artistic experience of the various spaces. In addition to cultivating a roster of artists to work with, Mikaeloff suggests pieces for the hotel’s private collection and plans exhibitions for the Art District gallery space. Photography gets particular emphasis with about 285 photographs exhibited throughout the various rooms, including dedicated suites that house works by a selected photographer or artist that have been designed specifically for the space. Mikaeloff also edits submissions to the hotel’s Young Photographer competition, which is judged by jury to award exhibition space to five prizewinners, who are then invited to submit work for a possible commission for the permanent collection.
“It’s anything but an elitist place,” says Mikaeloff during an interview featured on the hotel’s arts blog, www.artforbreakfast.com. “It’s a place where we’re going to make discoveries. It’s a place where we’re going to produce things, see young artists, rediscover artists who are not so young, but who have disappeared from Paris. It’s an important cultural hotbed as Paris used to be and must continue to be.”