Uniting space, staff and guests through art with ARTIQ [interview]

Hotel art suffers from an unflattering stereotype – that of the inoffensive but unmemorable image, only called "art" by the most generous definition of the word. Decorators are cognisant that their choices should appeal to (or at least not revolt) as many viewers as possible, and hence they err on the side of benign-but-bland still life caution.


ARTIQ founder, Patrick McCrae, has set out to challenge this notion, believing that art's power should not be diluted in hotels, but should be harnessed to promote brand identity, productivity and more. We speak to Patrick about how art and hospitality come together, and how art is an asset to hospitality.

Where did the idea for ARTIQ come from?

I founded ARTIQ in 2009 after graduating from university. Coming from a family of creatives, I was astounded by the lack of fair pay for artists and was determined to find an innovative way to support the creative industries.

How did it develop into a service for the hospitality industry in particular?

Historically, art has often been an aesthetic addition to hotel design with little thought put into what it can mean to guests. ARTIQ’s hospitality service was developed to disrupt this notion, using thoughtful curation and narrative-focused art to accentuate brand values and attitudes and build a story that reflects the heritage, locality and unique character of each hotel.

"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." — Pablo Picasso

ARTIQ’s ethos is to bridge the gap between the art and business worlds, uniting great spaces with great art and unleashing the benefits of art for innovative guest experience, outstanding design and staff wellbeing.

Hotels are increasingly looking for ways to differentiate themselves and the modern, global traveller is looking for more than just a bed for the night. From sourcing work by local artists to commissioning large-scale installations and holding artist talks, really good art strategies have the power to create unique and memorable experiences for guests.

What do you think it is about artwork that resonates with people and initiates conversations and connection?


Image © ARTIQ
Award-winning art and design for Banqueting and Events space at London Marriot Heathrow

Picasso said that ‘Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life’. From abstract painting to vintage photography, art invites people to reflect on what they see in front of them and look deeper to find emotion and meaning. Art is palpably human and a thoughtfully-curated art collection embeds in guests the experience of attention to detail, as well as a thoughtfulness that is expected in outstanding hospitality service.

What impact do you find artwork has on staff and management?

I believe that embedding art and culture into hospitality is as important for staff and management as it is for guests. Art has been proven to increase productivity, facilitate creative discussion and help retain talent and can play a crucial role in staff wellbeing.

We offer company-wide experiences for staff and guests which include life drawing classes, private gallery tours and artist studio visits. These experiences are created to inspire ideas and encourage collaboration.

"Historically, art has often been an aesthetic addition to hotel design with little thought put into what it can mean to guests. ARTIQ’s hospitality service was developed to disrupt this notion."

Our award-winning staff voting tool, Maestro, also offers staff and management the opportunity to have a say in what art they would like to see in their hotel and to really take the artwork to heart.

A particularly memorable experience for us was when a luxury hotel loved the art in their collection so much that they requested reproductions of the works for them to gift to their staff.

Looking at the examples of your work in hospitality, there are incredibly creative but also very unique installations — what is the process for creating spaces like these, and what role does brand identity play?

Teamwork and collaboration is crucial for establishing a great brief from the outset. Creating a truly thoughtful art collection involves working closely with the designer and hotelier to develop real stories and punctuation points around the heritage, history and brand of the hotel.

For example in our recent curation for The Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square, we worked closely with the hotel and interior designers, Goddard Littlefair, to develop a character-led narrative of a global nomad, whose myriad art works and antiquities were collected from his worldwide adventures.


Image © Gareth Gardiner
The iconic Scottish stag and a series of trinkets for the suites at The Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square curated by ARTIQ.

The collection features original paintings from a young contemporary artist, vintage maps and a series of bespoke botanical prints created exclusively for the client by our in-house artist Joe Owens. The collection also features a stunning print of the iconic Scottish stag, designed to speak to a guest rooted in global travel but with home always close to heart, which speaks to the strong story and eclectic, residential feel that we were working towards.

What do you think of as the biggest benefits for an accommodation provider to make use of your artwork and installations?

Art has a power much greater than the aesthetic. Not only does outstanding art enhance hotel design, it is also able to instantly communicate brand identity and quality of guest experience. ARTIQ collections are wholly unique. Each project is approached and delivered with the same attention to detail, thoughtfulness and personability that our clients demonstrate to their guests through outstanding service.

"Art has a power much greater than the aesthetic. Not only does outstanding art enhance hotel design, it is also able to instantly communicate brand identity and quality of guest experience."

Art rental is a low-risk, flexible and cost-effective way for our hospitality clients to invest in art and support a sustainable arts economy whilst also demonstrating their patronage of local artists. To date, ARTIQ has paid over £2-million to artists, makers and arts institutions.

Tell us about one of your favourite hospitality installations. What is it about the artwork and collection that you love?

It is far too tough to choose! From vivid zoological inspired prints at London Marriott Regents Park to iconic Scottish art chosen for the refurbishment of the stunning Gleneagles Hotel, I am personally always excited to work on projects that are passionate about showcasing their locale and heritage.

I must say that our project with The Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square is very close to my heart. My father used to stay at the hotel frequently when I was younger and I have great memories of family visits. It has been fantastic to see the hotel change and re-brand in such a stunning way and it was a pleasure to be a part of the recent refurbishment through our project with Goddard Littlefair.


Image © ARTIQ
'A String of Thoughts' by Debbie Smyth, curated by ARTIQ and displayed at Great Northern Hotel

Another stand out moment for ARTIQ would be the large-scale commission ‘A String of Thoughts’ by Debbie Smyth, part of our collection for the Great Northern Hotel. I love the personal story behind the work, with Debbie staying many times at the hotel and even getting engaged there. Her work is a stunning focal point in the hotel’s central staircase, using intricate thread art to depict a journey of discovery and reflecting London’s iconic landmarks, connectivity and rich heritage.

Is there a property that you’d love to see your artists displayed in?

I am excited about the increase in serviced apartment developments such as those by our client Leman Locke and I can see art and art expertise playing a major role in the enhancement of these spaces. Serviced apartments are becoming hyper local and increasingly more luxury-oriented and I think art by local artists will be the perfect way to display unique character and showcase brands with their finger on the pulse.

What was the best hotel that you’ve ever stayed at?

A personal experience that has stuck with me since I was a child was my time spent in a small hotel in Cornwall whilst on holiday with my family. The hotel was beautifully decorated and hyper local, with nods to the coast seen throughout the hotel design. Every detail in the hotel was created to make you feel like you were in Cornwall and the owner was passionate about the local area, giving guests helpful insight on where to go and what to see, even where to eat.

This experience has stayed with me to this day and I imagine informs the ARTIQ approach quite some amount. For me, it is the experience, attention to detail and thought that goes into the hospitality environment that creates a truly memorable stay and keeps me coming back time and time again.