My first stop was Midtown at the Kitano Hotel. Established in 1973, The Kitano Hotel is the only Japanese owned hotel in New York City. The Kitano family ranks as one of the leading art collectors in Japan, having established a private museum in Nagano Prefecture in 1968 (long before the Japanese buying spree of Impressionist paintings in the late 1980s).
This unique hotel is located in the historic Midtown Manhattan’s Murray Hill, a neighborhood that was once home to the wealthiest families in New York City including former residents such as J.P. Morgan as well as Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt. It is also not far from the city’s renowned Theater District and Central Park, which is the center of New York’s cultural and art events. The hotel was recently renovated to celebrate its 40th anniversary. Exhibited right at the entrance of the Kitano is Fernando Botero’s guard “Dog”. Many collectors worry about the risk of displaying art in public spaces, but the Botero is prominently seated in the lobby.
The patina on his nose and ear’s are rubbed bare from guest’s petting him and taking photos but that only add to his charms. Past the Botero, your eyes flow up to an abstract painting by Paul Jenkins. Paul Jenkin’s (1925-2012) was an American abstract artist who spent most of his life between New York and Paris, and whose works are collected by the Whitney Museum, among others. Sigrid Freundorfer, the art advisor for the hotel, graciously showed me around the complex, which exhibits artworks by Red Grooms, Ed Baynard, and a series of New York photographs and etchings by Joel Greenberg and Henri Silberman. Habauki Restaurant showcases a collection of works on paper by the Japanese artist Tatsuya Ishiodori. Hakubai is one of the most authentic Japanese restaurants in NYC, with the traditional Kaiseki dinner menu.
The guest rooms are large, bright and airy which is the benefit of older hotels that have been recently renovated like the Kitano. The highlight of the weekend is the Sunday jazz brunch. Surrounded by art, food and jazz, life doesn’t get better at the Kitano. After the Kitano, it was a move Uptown to the Chambers Hotel. The Chambers is a boutique hotel owned by the dynamic duo Richard Born and Ira Drukier. When you enter the Chambers it’s like being invited into a private residence.
The warm fireplace, leather and velvet sofas and serious art is not exactly what you would expect just a stone throw away from the glitz and glamor of Madison Avenue. The Chambers is home to more than 500 pieces of original art inspired by the cultural heritage of the city. With most hotels, the art is secondary but at the Chambers, architect David Rockwell designed the interiors as a compliment to the art collection. The artworks are exhibited all over the hotel, from its guest rooms to the common areas. The most striking feature of the hotel is the site-specific works by such artists as John Newson, Katerina Grosse, Do-Ho Suh, located on the guest room corridors on each floor. I had fun riding the elevator to snapshot each work of art.