With over 80 museums and countless galleries, the art scene in New York City can overwhelm even the most passionate aficionado. The Metropolitan Museum of Art houses over 2 million ft of exhibits, and most visitors spend a minimum of two hours examining art from Greece to Egypt and beyond. If your time and attention span are a little shorter – or if you simply prefer to admire art with more ambience and less foot traffic – The Beekman hotel houses the perfect hidden collection.
Built between 1881 and 1883 as one of Manhattan’s first skyscrapers, the original structure was named Temple Court and remains an architectural must-see today. Nestled at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, the iconic Italianate exterior and grand turrets set the trend for neighboring buildings like the Woolworth. In 1998, the red-brick facade was declared an official New York City landmark, but the crown jewel of this beautiful building lies within.
At the heart of the hotel, a nine-story Victorian-era atrium and pyramidal skylight towers over the stunning Bar Room. Here, guests can sit back and sip literary-inspired cocktails named for the thought leaders who once gathered here during the American transcendental period.
Along with the curated glass bookcases that divide the Bar Room from the hotel lobby, the Beekman Art Collection pays homage to writers such as Edgar Allen Poe, who once frequented the library and reading rooms of the site’s former Clinton Hall. Today, his portrait presides over the bustling cocktail lounge, while a smaller study in the lobby accompanies a sketched raven as a nod to his most famous poem.
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Curated by Katherine Gass, the entire collection represents 20 known and emerging artists, with 60 original paintings, photographs, prints and sculptures scattered throughout the public spaces and guest rooms. Available upon request, the Beekman concierge provides a guiding booklet, which details the work of artists like Cathy Cone, Jane Hammond, Patrick Jacobs and David Scher.
Appropriately titled The Temple Courters, Cone’s series of original portraits was commissioned specifically for the Beekman’s restoration as a nod to its rich literary connections. Inspired by painted tintypes popular in the 19th century, she playfully reimagines historic photographs of famous writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson with colorful, contemporary auras.
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Another work of reinvention, Jane Hammond’s All Souls (Buttermilk Channel) (2015) is a highlight of the collection. A New York native, her work has been featured at the Met (and elsewhere), but this colorful piece was specifically commissioned for the hotel. Situated behind the concierge desk, the vibrant layers of paper reference the building’s historic trade location along the lower tip of Manhattan while sculptural migrating butterflies add a dreamlike effect to the topographical scene.
Of course, a visit to see these works can be easily combined with a cocktail beneath the soaring Victorian atrium, but be sure not to miss two inset wall sculptures from Patrick Jacobs next to the front desk, or the running water inside Kathleen Vance’s Traveling Landscape – made from vintage suitcases.