Thursday, December 27, 2012

21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati

A perpetual addition to one of downtown's most vibrant blocks of entertainment

Entrance to the
21c Museum Hotel

      It's not every city that can boast a hotel and art museum under one roof.  With the opening of the 21c Museum Hotel in the renovated Metropole Apartment Building, Cincinnati becomes only the second city in the world (along with Louisville) to have such a claim.  It's older, but smaller, sister opened to much acclaim in 2006 and quickly reached world status as one of the top hotels.  We stayed there earlier this year (see that review "A Night at the Louisville Museum" posted 2/15/2012) and were impressed with the museum, but found our room to be equal to many boutique lodgings.

Hotel Lobby and Museum
      The Cincinnati lobby is an open space with an understated front desk and laptop computers for check in.  It's a bit confusing at first glance.  The art is prevalent immediately and continues into several of the main floor rooms.  We've visited twice, and our initial impression was that the staff was not
nearly as friendly or welcoming as its relative in Louisville.  Neither time were we greeted, although there was no one checking in or in the lobby when we entered.  Working our way to the Metropole Restaurant, we found the same to be true at the host stand.  Even though we perused the area, there was no conversation from the hostess or other staff members.  That's a significant omission for a hotel of this caliber and one that should be addressed immediately if it is to make a statement as one of the premier downtown establishments as it has in Louisville.

Interactive "Healing Tiles"
by Brian Knep
      The art collection could be an extension of the CAC (Contemporary Art Center) next door.  All of the pieces are from the collection of the 21c Museum Hotel founders Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson.  For their Cincinnati debut they have chosen OFF-SPRING: New Generations as the exhibit title.  The works range from quirky to impressive with most of them bringing a smile as a reaction.  Some of the pieces were eye-opening such as "Power Play" by Judy Fox.  The 10 life-size nude figures in the lobby were intended to portray the passage from childhood to adulthood, but for some it may need to be viewed by parents first to approve it for younger audiences.  It may not have been the best subject matter for such a public area.  Other provocative pieces are in more secluded areas on the second floor.

"Gully Godz in Conversation" by Ebony Patterson
One stunning work is not objectionable at all, but rather a new interpretation of the medieval tapestry.  "Gully Godz in Conversation" by Ebony Patterson captures a family portrait in an island dance hall setting using glittering threads and found objects.  

Hotel Atrium
      The most visible difference between the two 21c Museum Hotels is that the Cincinnati version truly incorporates the two venues.  The architecture provides a backdrop that is used to its fullest potential.  Meeting rooms were flanked with the

Meeting Room with Kara Walker's Artwork
works of modern artists such as Kara Walker and her series "Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War".  Large galleries are housed with full bars for special events.  

      This is a 24/7 public space.  There is a noticeable absence of museum guards.  That is both refreshing and alarming.  As I overheard in a conversation with some patrons and a museum curator, the staff is learning what works and what doesn't everyday.

With all the detail throughout the hotel, one would think they could have found a better wastebasket, don't' ya think?

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