Decoder Ring is a podcast about cracking cultural mysteries. Every month, host Willa Paskin, Slate’s TV critic, takes on a cultural question, object, idea, or habit and speaks with experts, historians, and obsessives to try to figure out where it comes from, what it means, and why it matters.
This month: What has happened to hotel art? When you think of hotel art, you probably think of kitsch, mass-produced oil paintings, Bob Ross landscapes, maybe even some works on velvet. But this is an outmoded idea, with hotels now boasting of their impressive art programs full of original works, sometimes by blue-chip contemporary artists. Decoder Ring talks to historians, artists, scholars, and hotel-art specialists to understand how this transformation happened. It explores the history of hotel art, explains how it went from kitsch to classy, and wonders whether the classy stuff is really an improvement.
Links and further reading on some of the things we discussed on the show:
- Examples of the photographs that now appear in Super 8s
- Instagram photos of the Dale Chihuly sculpture displayed in the lobby of the Bellagio
- A sketch about the Deuce Hotel from Portlandia
- A. K. Sandoval-Strausz’s book, Hotel: An American History
- A commercial for Marriott brand hotels from 2013
- Artist Thomas Swanston’s art and artist bio
Decoder Ring is produced and edited by Benjamin Frisch.