The duo behind international powerhouse gallery Hauser & Wirth are expanding their empire—but not with another gallery space. The mega-gallery’s Swiss founders Iwan and Manuela Wirth are due to open a new hotel in Braemar, Scotland, later this year.
The property, called The Fife Arms, is a former hunting lodge in Aberdeen once used by the Duke of Fife. The couple is currently transforming the estate, which may date as far back as the 17th century, into a 46-room boutique hotel. It has been under restoration for the past two years. There is no firm opening date, but Conde Nast’s Traveler magazine has already dubbed it one of the hottest hotel openings of 2018. The facility is also home to Victorian gardens and 12,000 Victorian objects that have been carefully assembled over the past several years.
News of the project—which surprised many in the art world—was buried in the sidebar of a recent travel column in the Financial Times, titled “The Business of Hotel Art.” But while a number of blue-chip dealers, including Larry Gagosian and Emmanuel Perrotin, have been presenting and selling art out of luxury hotels in recent years, no other top-of-the-line gallerist has gone so far as to build their own.
Along with the Victorian art, the FT reports that the hotel will have “site-specific installations and works by international contemporary artists.”
Traveler notes that the Scottish village Braemar is close to the Wirths’ hearts, as they own a home nearby, reportedly not far from the British royal family’s Highland getaway, Balmoral Castle. The Wirths even asked designer Paul Smith to develop a Wirth family tartan inspired by their love of Scotland.
A representative for the gallery declined to provide additional details about the project at this stage. But the Wirths have already demonstrated a flair for marrying hospitality and contemporary art. Their gallery on 22nd Street in New York is home to the artist-designed Roth Bar, which serves a rotating selection of cocktails and seasonal fare. Meanwhile, the gallery’s sprawling Los Angeles outpost, which opened in 2016, houses “Manuela,” an ultra-hip eatery named after the gallery’s co-founder.
Hauser & Wirth’s Somerset space also features the Roth Bar & Grill, which “combines gastronomy with contemporary art” and is billed as “a convivial eating place, serving honest, simple, and seasonal food,” according to its website.
Other major art dealers have waded into hospitality, though to date only as far as the restaurant biz. In 2014, Gagosian teamed up with Masa Takayama, the so-called “Dalai Lama of American sushi,” to open Kappo Masa in the same Upper East Side building that houses one of his New York galleries. And David Zwirner is an investor in the downtown New York eatery Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria, Gotham magazine reported in 2014.
The Fife Arms in Braemar received planning permission just over two years ago, in February 2016. According to the hotel website, the demolition process revealed some happy surprises: old granite walls and beautiful carved wood paneling had previously been covered up.
The developer has mounted a display of historic photographer of Braemar in the windows of the hotel while construction is underway. The next task will be do build out the kitchen, private dining room, and heather-roof courtyard, which the website says will “attract guests to sit outside—even in the Scottish weather!”
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