Meredith Gunderson is clear about what the City Inn group is trying to do with the exhibitions they put into their hotels.
“It’s a commitment to culture that is good for business,” she says. “City Inn want culture and art to be woven into the fabric of the hotel. They like the idea of that talent being placed here and they are sincere in this.”
“We want anybody in the city who thinks they might like these works, to come in and take a look,” says Gunderson. “This might be a private space but it’s publically accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That’s an interesting tension, a blurring of public and private realm that we like and encourage."
Gunderson is an independent consultant who owns her own gallery in London. A tall, beautiful American woman, she’s as sharp as a pin and charming company. I ask her to explain how placing art in hotels is good for business?
"It shows they want their hotels to look exciting, different, dynamic. If you're staying here it tells you the place isn't stagnant, smug with itself, self-satisfied but wants to always give you variety, show you something new. It's also good for the staff. They see they are part of a company that wants to keep things lively. I love overhearing the staff critiquing the works."
We are talking at a Manchester Confidential Heroes event - a special viewing of the latest Opera North art show. There’s a happy throng of readers, enjoying the wine and the food and chatting merrily away – very merrily when the wine shows no sign of running out and we continue until the early hours. It's a lovely occasion of funny, intelligent people having a good time.
What's really special is the way the city is laid out like its own exhibition in front of us. We’re a 100ft up in the Skylounge suite, a sort of private penthouse that holds 50 people with bar and outdoor terrace, facing south and west, but pulling in views on all sides.
What’s curious is how the height of the terrace seems just right, not too high, not too low. Manchester is shown off to perfection, the taller buildings higher than the viewer creating a proper urban landscape, yet the height sufficient to get a sense of the scale of Manchester and its place in a crook of the Pennines.
Back to the art. Gunderson takes us on a tour of the present works. The exhibition features five full opera costumes and eighteen photographs of performances by Opera North. The photographs are strong, pulling the viewer in with their mix of detail and colour and the built-in drama of opera.
The photographs seem to have been staged twice, once as the director’s vision of how best to deliver a scene to a live audience, and then secondly, when the poses have been caught in permanent record for the images.
The costumes, encountered as you wander the hotel, are perhaps even more powerful. From period dramas and bumped into out of context in the modern, shiny, spaces of the City Inn, they demand attention.
Meredith Gunderson again: “We wanted that, the works, are there to make City Inn, more attractive and dramatic. Opera’s a good theme for that.”
It certainly is. Catch some of the carefully chosen images by Clive Barda, Stephen Vaughan and Tristram Kenton if you can, they’re worth a gander especially if you’re in for a drink in the bar. And that’s part of it: these aren’t images and costumes just for the residents.
“We want anybody in the city who thinks they might like these works, to come in and take a look,” says Gunderson. “This might be a private space but it’s publically accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That’s an interesting tension, a blurring of public and private realm that we like and encourage.”
I've always loved this building. Crazy it's been empty for so long when it's next to a major…Read more
Offering £12 tickets to people from Manchester earning below £14k doesn't make the MIF less…Read more
The issue is not that there is differential scale. But that last year there was full price band and…Read more
"Some scrubber on the dole"? Get a grip.Read more