In many ways India is the bedrock of art and culture, and one can see it clearly in its hospitality sector. Several Indian hotels can be considered museums because of the attention given to its designing and maintenance, both as marvels of architecture and pieces of art. Not only that, but several hotels actively use art to decorate the space and make it more reverent to art history worldwide, allowing people who stay at these properties to sense the immense historic and cultural value of these art pieces. Let us look at some of these Indian hotels. Text by Shalini Passi. Photographs by Saiesha Gupta
1. Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad
Dating to 1894, this hotel was once the palace of the province’s Nizam, arguably the world’s richest man at the time. The hotel is made up of architecture from the Art Deco and Art Nouveau movements, which is an unusual combination. On the other hand, its lavish gardens boast of Rajasthani and Japanese influences. Here, one can find a billiard’s table akin to the one in United Kingdom’s Buckingham Palace, and as well numerous Venetian chandeliers. The statues, murals, and crystal collections here are reminiscent of the Windsor Castle’s library. Additionally, the palace also houses what could be considered the country’s finest collection of Quran. It is believed that in 1895, Mahboob Ali Pasha, the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, was invited to the palace for dinner. On seeing the place’s grandeur, he wished to buy it from Viqar-ul-Umra, despite already owning 17 palaces. For this, the Nizam was willing to pay INR 6.8 million, as opposed to taking it as a gift. Notably, it cost INR 4 million to build the palace. Over the years till his death in 1911, the Nizam added more precious items inside the palace.
2. ITC Maurya, New Delhi
ITC Maurya, located in New Delhi’s diplomatic enclave, has been a favoured accommodation among State heads, Heads of State, royalty, and international business leaders. As one enters the hotel lobby, they are greeted by A Ramachandran’s interpretation of Ashoka after Kalinga tattooed in the emperor’s Devanagari-scripted letters adorning the wall. When one takes a walk around the hotel, they can view beautiful pieces of art such as the sculpture of the legendary emperor by Meera Mukherjee, which decorates the gardens. Artworks by Tyeb Mehta, Akbar Padamsee and Jagdish Swaminathan have been adorned the walls here since the hotel’s inception, while works by Satish Gujral, Ram Kumar, Sanjoy Bhattacharya and many others have found a space as the years went by. The very architecture of the place, too, is replete with art interpretations. For instance, the main lobby is in the shape of a chaitya or prayer hall as seen in the Buddhist caves of Ajanta and Ellora.
3. The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai
Situated next to the Gateway of India in Mumbai’s Colaba region, the luxurious Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is built in the Saracenic Revival style. Standing tall since 1903, the premises has been an iconic architectural landmark of the city, while also doubling as an important hub for art lovers and aesthete. Most of the artworks here have been acquired from 1968 to the 70s, according to Taljinder Singh, the hotel’s Area Director and General Manager. The artists curated represent some of India’s leading artists of post-independence times, like M F Husain, Jamini Roy, S H Raza, N S Bendre, Baiju Paithan, B Vithal, V S Gaitonde and others, Singh further adds.
4. The Lodhi, New Delhi
Located centrally in New Delhi, the hotel self admittedly calls itself an urban oasis. Today, the hotel has eclectic artworks on display. Curated by Apparao Galleries, the hotel can be considered a gallery of sorts with names such as S H Raza, M F Husain, and Sakti Burman in the spaces. The hotel’s front lawn also has works like like Bodhi Tree by Alex Davis. The hotel’s art curator, Sharan Apparao, states that the design, architecture, and the hotel’s interior have been curated to suit the moods of the place.
5. Grand Hyatt Mumbai Hotel & Residences, Mumbai
Designed by Chicago’s Lohan Associates, Mumbai’s Grand Hyatt is best known for featuring some of the most eclectic art pieces. The art here is curated by Rajeev Sethi, each of which showcases a connection to the three great archaeological sites of Mumbai, namely, Jogeshwari caves, Elephanta Caves and Mandapeshwar Caves. The hotel showcases over 100 artworks across the gardens, lobby and restaurants, each of which have been specifically commissioned for the hotel by famous artists such as Jitish Kallat, Atul and Anju Dodiya, Nalini Malani and Riyas Komu. The most popular is the latter’s Bollywood: City of Dreams, displayed in the Grand Ballroom that provides a stark commentary on the ugly truths and reality of Bollywood’s glamorous life.
6. Le Sutra Hotel, Mumbai
Le Sutra in Mumbai is not just any luxury hotel. It has specifically dedicated itself to the world of art by curating artworks from many artists, painters and sculptors from the city’s burgeoning art scene. Their USP is the idea of luxury while living amongst amazing pieces of art. In their own words, they have built a museum in which you can enjoy your stay. The art gallery here is bonafide dedicated space that features an extensive art collection and also doubles as a banquet hall. In terms of decor, the hotel’s three floors correspond to the three gunas of Hinduism: tamas, or darkness; rajas, or passion; and sattva, or goodness. The rooms are delightfully furnished with paintings and decorative pieces that celebrate Indian art and characters from Hindu mythology.
Shalini Passi, the founder of Shalini Passi Art Foundation and MASH, will be curating one such list from all across the world. Stay tuned as the artist, art and design collector, philanthropist, and fashion patron takes you on a cultural escapade every weekend.
Feature Image Credits: Saiesha Gupta for Shalini Passi