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Art hotels bring aesthetics, events to guests
By Xu Wenwen

C’EST la vie of tourists in Banye Art House/Hotel: Rest in the hotel containing many artworks, hike in nearby mountains or bike around West Lake, eat local dishes at neighboring farmers’ homes, participate in art activities and drink with artists at night.

There must be reasons why the five-month-old hotel ranks No. 1 among all Hangzhou hotels and apartments on airbnb.com, and its owner couple, Peng Zhongming and Zheng Wenxin, think they know why.

“We made a place for artist and art fans to dream,” said Zheng, a contemporary artist and teacher at China Academy of Art. She said she and her husband opened the hotel as a platform to meet more artists.

In the leisure and scenic city of Hangzhou, where competition among hotels is stiff, many hotel owners are adorning the walls with paintings and photos. But some are shaping the hotel itself as a work of art. Shanghai Daily asks these art-style hotel proprietors how they run their inns and what they do to survive in the market.

Banye Art House orients itself as “a rendezvous of contemporary activities and artists.” Owner Zheng exhibits works, from paintings and sketches to installation and videos in halls, on stairs and in guest rooms. The couple also organizes serious artistic events.

On Tuesday, more than 100 people occupied the small hotel for an exhibition by artist Sun Xun, who displayed his latest videos and paintings with a history theme. Indeed, every month Banye holds at least one formal exhibition featuring a famed contemporary artist.

Small and casual parties, seminars and concerts among artists and art fans also take place every week. The couple never charges admission for exhibitions or concerts, yet always treat visitors with free foods and beverages.

Considering its location (in the scenic Longjing area, a 15-minute drive to downtown) and interior amenities, Banye charges a fair price, from 380 yuan (US$61) to 560 yuan for one room.

“Banye is more than a hotel. It does not sell rooms only. Its main task is actually running art events,” the husband Peng said.

So the secret to Banye’s success is that it’s first an art place and then a hotel. Banye is unique.

Most art hotels in Hangzhou sell the concept that they are artistically designed, and some are very successful.

Aska Guesthouse, a Japanese-style minshuku (Japanese style bed and breakfasts) run by a Chinese-Japanese couple. It features tatami, Japanese coffee, clean-line wooden furniture and a large garden. It is acclaimed for the serene location and tasty decoration. Aska has been discovered, and hence though its cafe has been praised for its tranquil atmosphere, those days are gone because of the abundant visitors.

Metoo House, a “work” by a bunch of designers/owners, is a white wood-and-glass house situated at top of a slope. It uses only wooden furniture and cotton-and-linen bedding. It cultivates vegetables like tomatoes and basil on the hill, and incorporates them into its breakfasts. Metoo is popular, and booking a room on a weekend normally must be done at least a month in advance, even with room prices from 780 yuan to 1,180 yuan.

A Myrica Village lies somewhere between elaborately designed and decorated hotels like Metoo, and those focusing on being an art place like Banye. It holds exhibitions less frequently, while its quality can compete with boutique hotels.

Lying at the entrance to Yangmeilin Hill, A Myrica Village holds exhibitions of “unusual and interesting stuff,” said Lu Wei, one of the owners. Recent examples are a plant exhibition and a solo photography exhibition by contemporary Taiwan photographer Leslie Hsu.

Owners and designers of the hotel are very particular about details. Room keys feature oversized broaches tailor-made in Italy and contained in handmade wooden boxes; the bathroom goods are of an international brand and some tubs are set outdoors; all windows and curtains are exquisitely designed to form a nice effect of light and shadow.

Rooms are priced from 630 yuan to 1,380 yuan.

“Because of our design and taste, customers are mostly designers, artists and people from the fashion field,” said Lu.

• Banye Art House

Address: No. 139, Maojiabu, Longjing Road

Tel: 182-6810-5081

• Metoo House

Address: No. 260, Baileqiao, Lingyingzhi Road

Tel: (0571) 8709-8002

• Aska Guesthouse

Address: No. 1, Yangjiashan, Manjuelong Village

Tel: (0571) 8646-0461

• A Myrica Village

Address: 134 Qianlong Rd (the entrance of Yangmeiling Hill)

Tel: (0571) 8512-1331

Customer Service: (86-21) 52920164