It is not every day you get to see an original Salvador Dali painting. It is even rarer to be able to sleep just a few feet away from one in a luxury hotel room, but this happens daily for the guests in the Gallery Suite at the Conrad Indianapolis. This room used to be the presidential suite but was redone just before the Super Bowl XVLI. If you are interested in booking it, it runs $3,000 a night.
The Gallery Suite is not the only room in the hotel with top-of-the-line art; in fact the entire hotel is filled with it. Artists range from Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol to local artists, such as Constance Edwards Scopelitis and Lois Main Templeton.
The main attraction, however, is the Long-Sharp Gallery that is located directly adjacent to the lobby. The gallery is available to hotel guests and the general public and it even participates in IDADA's First Friday events. First Fridays have been successful according to Jacqueline Cromleigh, the hotel's Public Relations and Marketing Manager.
"It's truly a wonderful way to connect with the local community," says Cromleigh.
As successful as the gallery and art additions have been for the hotel, to most people it seems just a little unusual to combine these two worlds. For the Conrad it seemed natural as the art program seamlessly combines Conrad's brand pillars of world class style and local culture. Rhonda Long-Sharp helped make this goal possible when the Conrad's owners, Al and Marianne Kite, contacted Scopelitis to inquire about adding more of her art in the hotel.
Long-Sharp is the owner and creator of ModernMasters Fine Art, an online art venue that began in 2005. Long-Sharp created Indy Contemporary in 2010, which features four Indianapolis-based artists: Constance Edwards Scopelitis - figure painter, Lois Main Templeton - abstract painter, Walter Knabe - screen printer, and Dale Enochs - sculptor. Long-Sharp says the group was created to "raise the level of consciousness of very high-leveled fine artists in the Indy area." In order to become a part of Indy Contemporary, the artists had to meet certain criteria including studying with a master artist in their discipline and have exhibited nationally or internationally.
Scopelitis consulted Long-Sharp about the opportunity to display her work in the Conrad Indianapolis, and her first reaction was a resounding "no." She knew how these situations typically worked: the art hangs in the building but it is not promoted, and if anybody has a question about it the staff does not usually have an answer.
However, Long-Sharp did agree to talk about the offer in order to get a deal that worked best for the artist. This talk led to three exhibit spaces on the second floor of the hotel, as well as trained art ambassadors, an art channel on the hotel's channel with short films on the artists, QR codes on each piece, and eventually the lobby exhibit and the Long-Sharp Gallery itself.
"We dreamed up a program that art collectors would want to participate in," says Long-Sharp.
- "Skyward" by Gino Miles
Each piece of art hanging in the hotel is available for purchase through ModernMasters Fine Art, but the Conrad did not forge this partnership for the financial gain. Its goal is to give customers a unique and culturally enriching experience, one that will stand out from the rest.
"It really adds to the overall guest experience," says Cromleigh, also emphasizing that not only is the customer's experience different because of the art's presence, but the employees work harder to give them that special experience because they, too, are excited about the art.
The hotel has received much positive feedback from the change, and has won numerous awards ranging from Elite Traveler Magazine's "Top 101 Hotel Suites in the World" for its Gallery Suite, to Modern Painter's "100 Best Fall Shows" for its Icons and Irony exhibition featuring work from Warhol, Banksy, Lichtenstein, Picasso, Kramer, and Robert Indiana. The gallery also participates in numerous art fairs such as Scope Miami and American International Art Fair.
Long-Sharp Gallery's newest exhibition is A Toast to Modernism, which features large-scale abstract sculptures by Gino Miles. There are pieces in the hotel lobby as well as the gallery. Each piece took multiple people to install in the gallery because of their immense weight, but they can all be spun. Cromleigh says the guests are shocked at how interactive the exhibit is, and have given nothing but praise.
Long-Sharp curates each exhibit in the five spaces, and one exhibit is rotated every three months. That way if somebody visits the hotel four times throughout a year, there will always be a new exhibit.
"It may be overly ambitious," concludes Long-Sharp, "but it is what it is."