Interior design is a frequent topic of conversation during big luxury hotel openings. The way a property looks on the inside is indicative of the experience guests will enjoy during their stay. It’s a visual representation of its core concepts and values. While many of Bangkok’s finest hotels feature striking interior designs worthy of large spreads in glossy magazines, there’s one aspect where most fall short: artwork. Many eloquent hotels and resorts showcase art pieces throughout common areas, but these displays often feel like little more than colourful decorations – not necessarily directed at those with a keen eye for art.
If there is one thing abundantly clear when stepping inside Park Hyatt Bangkok, it’s that the art on the walls is not for decoration. It’s not an accent to furniture. It’s not meant to blend into the background. It’s art, and it commands the same respect any pieces would in a fine museum or art gallery.
Park Hyatt Bangkok celebrated its opening early last month to great fanfare, marking the completion of Central Embassy, and at the same time let the city’s media explore what’s arguably the finest art collection of any hotel in the country – even rivalling some of Bangkok’s most established galleries.
In fact, the hotel’s art selections were so meticulously curated that extensive art tours are offered to guests – similar to a museum experience – examining the various pieces accompanied by explanations of their origin, conceptual development and meaning.
Numerous works – mostly paintings, sculptures, photographs and mixed-media pieces – fill the hotel’s common areas and event spaces. Nearly all of which are part of Central Group CEO Tos Chirathivat’s private collection. The line-up of featured artists is just as impressive as the selection of works on display, with international heavyweights like Andreas Gursky and Hirotoshi Sawada sharing the stage with Thai contemporaries such as Chatchai Puipia and Nonthivathn Chandhanaphalin.
Hirotoshi, a renowned Japanese artist whose profile includes commissions from the world’s top luxury brands, is the man behind perhaps the two most prominent pieces in the hotel. (If you’ve followed media coverage of Park Hyatt Bangkok since it opened, you’ve certainly seen them.) Both are massive installations designed to echo the hotel’s commitment to a refined and uniquely Thai experience.
The first, Pagoda Mirage, is an abstract installation built from hundreds of small, conical copper swirls looming over the hotel ballroom on the ground floor with the property’s grand staircase wrapping around the outside. When viewed in its entirety, the piece resembles an inverted Buddhist pagoda – meant to rain blessings on guests as they arrive – sparkling in the light and revealing its impressive form as the viewer examines different angles.
The second installation, Naga, is a swirling cascade of black batons hanging over the property’s Living Room dining area. Named after the mythical water dragon believed to inhabit the Mekong river, Naga’s flowing structure starts erratically in bronze acrylic before sweeping into dark brown timber swirls through the main area and assuming a vertical pattern in the Living Room veranda.
These two can’t-miss installations are without a doubt the hotel’s show pieces. They don’t simply look intriguing, they are the kinds of mammoth sculptures that command attention and have enough intellectual appeal to keep viewers engaged well past a prolonged glance.
Underneath Naga sits another collection highlight: A large-print photograph by renowned German photographer Andreas Gursky. Famous for his highly politicised works, Gursky’s Bangkok VII (2011) is one of the most expensive pieces in Park Hyatt Bangkok’s collection. The piece is an alluring image of the Chao Phraya River, digitally manipulated to emphasise contaminants in the water and bring attention to some of Thailand’s environmental issues.
The photograph itself lacks any perceivable depth-of-field or horizon, which tricks most viewers into believing it’s simply an abstract painting. These complexities, both visual and mental, make Bangkok VII one of the punchier pieces in the tour – sure to be a long-time favourite.
But the collection’s highlights go far beyond international big names. A large part of Park Hyatt’s commitment to art focuses on supporting and emphasising local talent. Thai artists make up the majority of Park Hyatt Bangkok’s collection. Some of them are better known than others, but all are uniquely adept at representing Thai culture in novel and thought-provoking ways.
The most newsworthy of the local stable is Chatchai Puipia, the 2006 “Artist of the Year” Silpatnon Award winner for visual arts. Known as one of Thailand’s most outspoken, forward-thinking artists, Chatchai has been a bastion of contemporary Thai art for several decades. Recognised for his flower and butterfly motifs, the artist provided several pieces specifically for Park Hyatt Bangkok – displayed in the hotel’s lobby, Embassy Room and The Bar. The two pieces in the lobby are some of the most visually interesting in the entire hotel. Both untitled, they are colourful images of butterflies set against flower-laden backgrounds – meant to help welcome the guests to the hotel and set the visual stage for the remainder of their stay.
Immediately following the main lobby is a foyer containing Meditation by Nonthivathn Chandhanaphalin, one of Thailand’s best-known modern sculptors. Nonthivathn has crafted figures reflecting Buddhist philosophy for almost 50 years, and his captivating Meditation statue, a modern interpretation of the iconic seated Bhudda image, is a beloved piece by guests and media alike – gently welcoming people to the property while the city’s skyline glistens in the background.
While the staple pieces might get the lion’s share of the attention in the press, the entire Park Hyatt Bangkok property is filled with fascinating and thought-provoking art that makes wandering its hallways and public areas a real joy. Stroll around the Living Room and you’ll find the massive Bodhi Tree by Thai painter Atinya Imjinda on a silk wall by James Thompson in the hotel’s private dining room. Meander to the ground floor to witness the colossal I Were You mixed-medium piece by Chinese artist Gao Weigang. Venture to the depths of the ballroom area to see the jarring Set of 5 by Mit Jai Lnn (my personal favourite). No matter where you go, a walk through Park Hyatt Bangkok feels very much like enjoying an art gallery on a weekend afternoon.
It’s a place where creativity and artistic expression have a stage all their own. Objects to be appreciated, remembered and learned from. It’s a refreshing take on interior design philosophy and a welcome diversion from established hospitality trends.