Each piece of art in Toronto’s Park Hyatt Hotel feels like it fits perfectly in the place where it sits. In fact, that’s part of what sets the collection apart. Composed of around fifty works distributed throughout the building, each item in the hotel was commissioned with a specific location in mind. This gave artists the chance to factor in the scale of the space and the hotel’s interior design when conceiving their creations.
Knowing the work’s ultimate destination also allowed contributors to consider the surrounding geography. Berlin-based artist Shannon Bool’s Dead Ringers points to both the city’s quirky architectural history and the chic Yorkville shopping district nearby. Greeting guests as they arrive in the entrance hall, the monumental tapestry is based on a computer collage of familiar Toronto building facades and fashion mannequins from the Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Paris. And the title, of course, is a nod to celebrated Canadian director David Cronenberg.
Although each work is designed for the space it occupies, they aren’t meant to fade into the decor. Instead, many of the pieces hope to spark contemplation.
Algonquin artist Nadia Myer’s largescale Wampum Belt Where Beavers, Deers, Elks, and Such Beasts Keep references the sacred object used by many Indigenous nations to encode peace agreements. Painstakingly constructed from 12,000 hand-shaded ceramic beads in 60 different colours, the piece provides a dynamic focal point in the hotel’s restaurant while asking diners to considers Canada’s frayed relationship with its original occupants and potential new paths to reconciliation.
In contrast to more serious works, Taiwanese-Canadian artist An Te Liu’s Mixer offers a purely joyful experience. The massive pair of shimmering bronze sculptures was inspired by archival photos of legendary barkeep Joe Gomes who helmed the hotel’s rooftop watering hole for 57 years. The title alludes to both the source material and the creative process; the shape of each piece is an amalgam of bottles and glasses from those original images. Situated in the hotel car park, the work serves as both an easily identifiable meeting point and an ideal selfie backdrop while waiting for your Uber.
In both its conception and presentation, the Park Hyatt stands apart from most corporate art collections, where works are often selected more for investment potential than aesthetic value. The collection is also unusual in that it’s both permanent and complete; the hotel has no plans to sell any of the works or add additional pieces. And it stands out as a venue that exclusively features Canadian artists, a commitment the curatorial team made from the beginning.
As an art hub, the Park Hyatt is in good company; the hotel is a short walk from several major cultural hubs including the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Bata Shoe Museum, and the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art. Of course, a visit to the hotel is no substitute for an afternoon at a museum. But then again, where else can you get world-class art with a side of chocolate sponge cake?
Sara Waxman, OOnt, is an award-winning restaurant critic, best-selling cookbook author, food and travel journalist and has eaten her way through much of the free world for four decades, while writing about it in books, newspapers and magazines. She is the Editor in Chief of DINE and Destinations magazine.