Art and culture

Q&A: Clarissa Tam on Bringing Art to Swire Hotels

The senior marketing manager of Swire Hotels discusses her plans for new art programming and how it enhances the guest experience

Part of your marketing role is bringing art to Swire Hotels. Tell us about it.

In my role, I’m developing a new art programme for both our brands at Swire Hotels – the House Collective and East – which have very different positioning. We want to create temporary art exhibitions that add to the experience of the brand.

What does art contribute to the hotel brands?

As a company, we love art; it’s something we support. Bringing in art helps to make sure we deliver inspiring experiences to guests. But hotels need to keep changing as well. Even if you’ve built something with a beautiful design, you can’t just stay the same. There needs to be some newness and freshness. So I think art is a great way of doing this.

Why bring temporary shows to hotels rather than permanent art?

Temporary art can be a bit more experiential and more exciting than permanent displays. For our first project, ‘Encounters Across Culture’, which launched in Beijing’s Opposite House in March, we’re working with Swiss video artist Katja Loher. She’s created a series of artworks for us that are about the Chinese five elements, inspired by the House Collective’s four hotels and their respective cities. The interesting thing with video is it can really transform a space. At the Opposite House, for instance, the art is projected on the atrium space. That’s something you can’t really do with permanent pieces because it’s too overwhelming in the long run. It’s something really dramatic and exciting that we can do on this basis instead.

What’s in store for East hotels’ art programme?

East is a more business-geared brand, and we’re looking at an art programme that’s more about design, especially as it pertains to sustainability and urban living. We’re looking to launch that at the end of this year.

How can art be more accessible?

Part of it is effectively communicating why an artwork is relevant to someone. But art is most fundamentally about human experiences. It’s something that is quite personal, but it can be very universal as well. That’s what I really love about art – that it can connect you with someone you’ve never met before or someone coming from a different background and a different point of view. Understanding art doesn’t require technical knowledge, and you don’t necessarily have to know about art history. It can be something you connect with on a very human level.

Hong Kong’s art scene is growing, especially with the imminent completion of the M+ museum of visual culture. What’s your take?

I’m excited. It’s taken a long time for the building’s construction, but it’s been really nice to see shows in M+ Pavilion over the past few years. Their show last year on South East Asia explored the stories of artists from different cultural backgrounds, and it informed my thinking for the House Collective art programme. After all, hotels are meeting places for people from different cultures.

‘Encounters Across Culture’ opens at Upper House in Hong Kong on 22 May 2019

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