The Ritz-Carlton Millenia’s Grand Investment in Modern Art
The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore invested about US$4,000,000 in 4,200 pieces of art that now grace its hallways. About fifty of these pieces count as "museum quality", and thus are put in prominent positions throughout the Ritz-Carlton's lobby and ground levels, where they can be seen by visitors.
90 percent of the artwork in the Ritz-Carlton was commissioned specifically for the hotel; the resulting collection takes mainly from Pop-Art and Post-Painterly Abstractionist art schools, with abstract forms and shapes that add delightful variations of color and shape to Hirsch Bedner Associates' modern interiors.
Artists whose work are displayed in the Ritz-Carlton's halls represent a diverse mix of disciplines: sculptures by Frank Stella, Dale Chihuly and John Rose stand alongside prints and paintings by Andy Warhol, Sam Francis, and David Hockney.
Guests who want to take a guided tour of the Ritz-Carlton's art collection can borrow an iPod at the concierge desk to listen to a 30-minute art "podcast" that takes you on a step-by-step tour through the works of art in the hotel's public areas. (Your guide found the actual experience to take about 50 minutes; you'll need to pause the podcast from time to time as you walk from one part of the hotel to another, and as you admire the artwork up close.)
For a quick taste, you can listen to the first minute of the self-guided tour here: Ritz Carlton art tour excerpt (MP3 file, 1:24, 1.28MB).
The next few pages feature eight artworks from the Ritz-Carlton's extensive collection. Proceed to the next page to start with Frank Stella's gigantic sculpture in the hotel's central atrium.
Cornucopia by Frank Stella
Even if you don't take the tour, you won't miss this work of art: Cornucopia, a massive undulating fiberglass sculpture by artist Frank Stella. Cornucopia hangs from the vaulted glass ceiling in the Ritz-Carlton, Millenia's central atrium.
Stella began his career as a painter and printmaker, but his work evolved in the 1980s to embrace sculptural forms - a natural evolution for an artist whose work was noted for deepening relief over his career. Stella made small maquettes that other craftsmen would enlarge and execute on his behalf.
Cornucopia is one of these sculptures, initially inspired by a paper sunvisor; Stella molded the initial idea to something more spherical yet far more intricate. The end product is made of 3 tons of fiberglass - it was fabricated by traditional shipwrights working in Cannes, France, then shipped to Singapore.
Sunrise at the Chihuly Lounge by Dale Chihuly
If there's one artist whose work stands front-and-center in the Ritz-Carlton Millenia's extensive collection, it's Dale Chihuly, the renowned glassblower and glass artist. One of only four American artists whose work merited a solo show in the Louvre, Dale Chihuly created a number of glass installations that grace multiple places in the Ritz-Carlton's lobby level.
Two sculptures on opposite sides of the lobby level represent Chihuly's most visible work in the Ritz-Carlton: "Sunrise" and "Sunset", the former a yellow-and-orange glass installation on the east-facing wall of the Chihuly Lounge, the latter a yellow-and-green installation on the west-facing wall of the Greenhouse.
Sunset at the Greenhouse by Dale Chihuly
Dale Chihuly's "Sunrise" and "Sunset" are constructed out of hundreds of hand-blown glass pieces resembling tentacles or sea anemone. Both works are perfect examples of Chihuly's celebrated ability to work within a larger, architectural context - "When you're working on a building, it's permanent," Chihuly once said. "It forces you to make something in design terms that will withstand the test of time."
Yellow Persian Forms by Dale Chihuly
Chihuly Persians represent a signature artform for Dale Chihuly; one example is prominently displayed in the left guest elevator lobby between the Greenhouse and the Chihuly Lounge. The Ritz-Carlton’s yellow Persian forms stand on two stalks in a green vase; the whole artwork stands about 43 inches tall.
Persians are typified by glass worked into herringbone shapes and spiraling “body wraps”. The Persians were described as “new possibilities from the blowpipe” in the catalog for Chihuly’s Louvre exhibit, the result of Chihuly’s continuing innovation in his Pilchuck Glass School: “The Persians started out as a search for new forms,” Chihuly later said. (source)
Double Screw by John Rose
Sculptor John Rose's fascination with visualizing scientific and engineering forms finds expression in the Ritz-Carlton's right guest elevator lobby. Double Screw stands at one end, apparently mirroring the motions of the mechanisms in the adjacent elevators. The sculpture was crafted from balsa wood; the winding wood shape stands about 94 inches on a sloped granite base.
Like Frank Stella, Rose began as a painter but found his work evolving to take on three-dimensional forms. Rose takes Eastern influences to create almost Zen-informed shapes out of malleable woods like poplar or balsa. Rose is moved mainly by visuals inspired by physics and biology, particularly the helical forms inspired by DNA.
"We can see inside the most miniscule of particles, what was once invisible is now visible," Rose explains. "Essentially this super vision of scientific imagery, in particular DNA spirals and protein configurations, is the keystone for inspiration in the creation of my work."
Four Etchings, Floating Rocks by Henry Moore
Hanging behind the concierge desk (now called the guest relations desk) are four prints that were, quite interestingly, created by an artist better known for his gigantic imposing sculptures. Henry Moore created the four floating rock sketches for the Ritz-Carlton, a drop in the bucket for the famously prolific artist. His eponymous foundation calculates his artistic legacy to include about 919 sculptures, 5,500 drawings and 717 graphics.
Moore found inspiration in nature, a muse that finds form in these four sketches. “I have found principles of form and rhythm from the study of natural objects, such as pebbles, rocks, bones , trees and plants,” the artist once proclaimed
Moby Dick Series by Frank Stella
A spiral staircase from the central atrium winds down to the ground level; the staircase’s middle landing gives you the best vantage point for viewing Frank Stella’s Moby Dick wall sculptures. These sculptures are only two of 138 Moby Dick works Stella made; the series was inspired by movies of beluga whales; the artworks themselves reflect an aquatic theme that beautifully foreshadows the large swimming pool past the glass door in their middle.
Celia by David Hockney
The Celia crayon lithograph by British artist David Hockney has become the unofficial mascot of the Ritz-Carlton Millenia; “she” hangs at the entry into the fitness center on the ground level. Hockney often roped his friends in to model for him, and Celia is no exception.
The designer Celia Birtwell inspired a large part of Hockney’s work, which bears influences from impressionists like Matisse and Van Gogh. Celia was married to Hockney’s good friend, the late fashion designer Ossie Clarke; Hockney stood as best man at their wedding.