First Look: The Fantauzzo, Brisbane’s New Art Series Hotel
Asher Keddie is in the lobby. Wisps of blonde hair frame her face and her blue eyes seem to follow me as I walk over to her. Behind me is Guy Pearce, and just near the check-in desk is a gorgeous little boy with masses of dark curls wearing a Superman outfit, and beside him, a playful polar bear cub.
While it may seem as though I’ve stumbled into a scene from a surrealist film, I’m actually getting a sneak peek at Brisbane’s new $100m hotel – The Fantauzzo.
Unfortunately, Keddie, Pearce, the little boy, and the cub are not flesh and blood, but beguiling paintings hanging in the lobby.
The hotel’s namesake is acclaimed Australian painter Vincent Fantauzzo, and The Fantauzzo is the eighth property of the Art Series Hotels, which are all inspired by and dedicated to Australian contemporary artists.
Fantauzzo has won multiple awards (including the Packing Room prize and the Doug Moran Portrait Prize), and has been awarded the Archibald People’s Choice more than any other artist. He is known for his arresting take on photorealism through portraits, landscapes and narratives.
Indian film star Amitabh Bachchan peers down at guests in the lobby, his eyes earnest and lips pursed into a half smile. Raven-haired singer and actress Kimbra sits on the edge of a bed, her eyes closed and her head tilted backwards. And it’s hard not to stop and stare at the haunting image of the late Heath Ledger, sitting topless and tattooed in the centre with two ghosts of himself whispering into the actor’s ears. The portrait was painted just weeks before Ledger died.
But it’s Keddie, Fantauzzo’s wife, looking down upon the angular raw concrete check-in desk with her warm smile that gives you the true sense of the hotel – approachable, candid, beautiful and welcoming.
Behind the desk is the first glimpse of how the hotel hugs the contour of the cliff beneath Brisbane’s imposing Story Bridge. Large panels of glass show off the exposed and fragmented rock, lending a dramatic, earthy feel to the foyer. In his paintings, Fantauzzo contrasts light and dark, shadows and colours to create depth and effect, and being able to see the natural rock face further highlights this aesthetic.
Walking along the hotel hallways hung with reproductions of some of Fantauzzo’s most recognised works, it feels as though I’m in an alternative modern art gallery – gone are the white walls, instead, stone-coloured walls are illuminated with a low ribbon of lighting. The placement of the glossy artworks often makes me pause outside the matte black doors to the suites.
“Particular hallways are dedicated to certain parts of Vincent’s career,” says Andrew Maynard, the general manager of operations for the Art Series Hotels. The corridor displaying Fantauzzo’s portraits of Indigenous desert artists and landscapes is especially striking, and it’s hard to believe that the intricately detailed black and white images are paintings and not photographs.
Around half of the 166 guest suites face the Brisbane river and the heritage-listed steel cantilever bridge while other rooms are cliff-facing. The boutique nature of the hotel means that many of the suites are different in shape and size, but the muted colour palette of green, navy, black and gold is consistent and is a nod to the hotel’s surroundings.
The river-facing rooms boast extraordinary views, but the suites overlooking the cliff are equally as entrancing. Cascading greenery dots the craggy rock face and there’s a sense of movement and light as the wind sends ripples between the rock and the suites’ windows.The rooms are modern with blonde timber floors, textured rugs, meticulously stitched emerald green sofas and quilted charcoal throws on the beds. The sophisticated but muted finishes amplify Fantauzzo’s artworks, which are boldly displayed in each room.
On the roof of the six-storey hotel is a glittering infinity pool almost within touching distance of the Story Bridge and the ferries gliding along the river beneath. The hotel itself sits alongside the heritage buildings of the revitalised, vibrant precinct of Howard Smith Wharves.
For Fantauzzo, the hotel is an immersive experience. “To have an Art Series Hotel dedicated to showcasing my work is truly an honour,” he says.
“I’m passionate about accessibility to the arts, and what excites me most about the collaboration is that this hotel will give all guests the opportunity to connect with art and immerse themselves in a really creative experience.”
As I leave the hotel and step out into a bright, sunny Brisbane day, I turn around for one last look. The painting of Keddie is so lifelike that I almost expect her to lift her arm and wave goodbye.
(Lead image: The Fantauzzo / The Fantauzzo Art Series Hotel)
Published 27 March, 2019