Zeng Fanzhi collaborates with flagship hotel to provide modern take on Ming Dynasty aesthetics.
The NUO Hotel Beijing emerges as one of the city’s new breed of luxury brands boasting an impressive collection of contemporary art.
Owned by the Beijing Tourism Group (BTG), NUO Hotel Beijing opened its doors in June 2015. With key interiors developed by Hirsch Bedner Associates, the hotel has 438 guest rooms and suites and an Executive Club Lounge. The five-star hotel also boasts international dining options, a holistic spa utilising a traditional Chinese medicine text and a tea house featuring bespoke tea collections. The hotel is located in the Chaoyang District, a quick five-minute taxi ride to Beijing’s famed 798 Art District, a decommissioned industrial complex that is one of the main hubs of the contemporary art scene in Beijing.
In Chinese, NUO means “golden promise”, something the hotel takes very seriously. The NUO brand upholds four founding pillars: Chinese, Contemporary, Luxury and Green, and is one of the first Beijing hotels to have been awarded the LEED gold level certification. According to press materials for the hotel, the brand plans to expand both at home and abroad, with each hotel having a very unique flavour and design:
In addition to Beijing, NUO Hotels has development plans in China and rest of the world. Each NUO hotel has varying cultural style and design inspirations, making each hotel unique. These inspirations are based on designs originating from a set of seven Chinese Dynasty traditional paper-cutting and woodworking techniques. Just like the creation of the core pattern of the vase depicted in the NUO logo, these designs enrich the visual appeal and expression of the brand. Each future new location provides NUO with a platform to express a particular facet of Chinese culture from a new angle and to promote its national cultural treasures. Future individual NUO Hotels will each be a showcase of a unique aspect of traditional Chinese culture or history of the property’s location.
For the brand’s inaugural hotel, NUO Hotel Beijing quietly contemplates one of China’s most culturally rich times: the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Lasting nearly three centuries, the Ming Dynasty was a period of “cultural restoration” following the collapse of Mongol rule. This restoration led to a period that, according to a brief essay by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, standardised art across the country:
The reestablishment of an indigenous Chinese ruling house led to the imposition of court-dictated styles in the arts. Painters recruited by the Ming court were instructed to return to didactic and realistic representation, in emulation of the styles of the earlier Southern Song (1127–1279) Imperial Painting Academy. Large-scale landscapes, flower-and-bird compositions, and figural narratives were particularly favored as images that would glorify the new dynasty and convey its benevolence, virtue, and majesty.
Based on this rich backdrop of history, the hotel traces its style lineage from a veritable ‘who’s who’ of Ming Dynasty heavyweights, starting with intellectual Zhang Dai and Wen Zhenheng (writer), who many consider the father of classic Chinese design and wrote pivotal work Treatise on Superfluous Things. Other notable figures include Wen Zhengming (poet), Xu Wei (calligrapher and painter), Zhu Quan (philosopher) and Zheng He (naval explorer).
In the heart of the hotel, the gleaming lobby is resplendent with a collection of blue and white painted porcelain jars in a nod to Jingdezhen’s famed ancient kilns that supplied fine wares for the emperor and export market. Incidentally, a single vase is the chosen symbol for the NUO luxury brand.
Nearby, towering sculpture Le Shan by Zeng Fanzhi demands attention. Here too, according to the hotel’s press materials, the work was inspired by a Ming Dynasty-era luminary:
Made of silver and bronze imported from Basel, Switzerland, the 3-tonne sculpture, entitled “Le Shan”, is Mr. Zeng’s homage to a line from one of the essays of renowned Ming Dynasty-era intellectual and historian Zhang Dai who, in recalling blissful memories spent with his beloved grandfather in Shaoxing, China, said: “The door opens on a view of mountains; the window opens on a view of water”.
Collaborating with the hotel as an honourary art consultant, Zeng Fanzhi is one of China’s most recognised contemporary artists. His work spanning three decades has been exhibited widely throughout the world and has fetched record prices at auction. In addition to Zeng’s monumental sculpture, his 6.3-metre-by-2.6-metre painting Landscape 2014 is displayed at the check-in counter and each guest room has a nature scene from the artist that “originated from paintings on paper”.
In a quote issued by the hotel to Art Radar, Zeng spoke about his work with the NUO brand and the importance of art in everyday life:
Art should be intimately connected with life because beauty knows no barriers; it is all interlinked. This collaboration with Beijing Tourism Group is a marvellous example; I hope to express my consistent pursuit of beauty through the continuing support of NUO Hotel Beijing. Only by insisting on bringing art into life, for everyone to appreciate and experience, will art truly inspire the daily life of everyone around us.
The collection features artwork from emerging and established artists throughout the grounds, including Chinese artists Chen Fei, Huang Qi, Huang Qicheng, Lin Jing, Song Yige and Wang Gang. A dramatic piece from African artist Pascale Marthine Tayou is also included in the collection, which according to the hotel’s website, “represents the relationship between man and the gods”:
The artist Pascale Martine Tayou says that the jars are meant as a prayer for food and water for the people of the world; however, they are also an ironic statement about people’s overly high or unrealistic aspirations.
In addition to consulting with Zeng, the hotel also works with ShanghArt Gallery and M Woods Museum. Onsite projects include a lecture series in collaboration with Nanmu Studio to further bring traditional Chinese culture to both art aficionados and connoisseurs. The hotel currently is showing Emerald Tablet, an installation by Chen Xiaoyun together with ShanghArt Gallery through 31 May 2017.
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