On Berlin’s Mittelstrasse, not far from the Brandenburg Gate, you’ll find a ca.-1850 building with a new, Sir David Chipperfield–designed roof, its bronze dome featuring a weathervane by the artist Cyprien Gaillard. At night, the facade glows with the warm light of lanterns whose multicolored glass has been created by the artist Paul Hance.
The cloaked bronze statue standing guard outside—Alicja Kwade’s —feels less hospitable, however.
“Two things can happen here,” said the local gallerist turned curator Kirsten Landwehr: “The art can simply —without consciously registering a specific moment and what it does to you, it feels pleasant, you could even call it magic; or it speaks to you directly, in a way that can also be provocative and challenging.”
She was referring not a museum or a gallery, but to Château Royal, the city’s newest boutique hotel and perhaps most surprising new space to experience contemporary art.
But it is perhaps less surprising when you consider who is behind it. That would be Stephan Landwehr (Kirsten’s husband) and Moritz Estermann, the cofounder and longtime manager of Berlin’s beloved Grill Royal, respectively, along with Danish-Icelandic chef Victoria Eliasdóttir, who years ago ran the kitchen of Olafur Eliasson’s local studio (the artist is her brother), and more recently the city’s seasonally inspired Dóttir restaurant.
The latter has come back to life inside the hotel, serving dishes like “In Beans We Trust” (smoked white beans, sautéed kale, tomatoes, and thyme oil with grilled brioche and house-made labneh) alongside an oversize neon work by Karl Holmqvist, (translation: “Hooray, the butter is gone”).
“Personally, I can’t imagine a room without art,” said Stephan, whose first Berlin venture—a framing workshop—fostered the community of artists and art worlders who frequent his establishments today. “When thinking about opening a hotel or restaurant, art was naturally going to play a role.”
So the couple tapped some 100 of their artist friends, including Cosima von Bonin, Simon Fujiwara, Damien Hirst, Anne Imhof, Masha Reva, Anri Sala, Tino Sehgal, and Danh Vo. Their contributions—paintings, sculptures, photography, videos, installations, even drapes—adorn Château Royal inside and out, from the exteriors to the 93 guest rooms and suites, which have vintage and custom oak furnishings, herringbone parquet floors, and Bauhaus-inspired bathrooms with nickel, chrome, and handcrafted craquelé tiles.
The works have been curated—and often specially commissioned—by Kirsten in collaboration with Krist Gruijthuijsen, the director of Berlin’s KW Institute for Contemporary Art. “We gave card blanche to all the artists,” Kirsten told Artnet News.
While Thomas Demand created wallpaper, Christian Jankowski asked the site’s construction workers to draw castles in the sky; he is now turning four years of their work into a light sculpture. Meanwhile, Samantha Bohatsch is planning to do a sound performance in one of the guest rooms.
The only artwork that they were not able to execute was by Kirsten Pieroth. “The artist had planned to leave one room completely unfinished and just put a mattress in, cables coming out of the wall, no paint,” Kirsten said. “Unfortunately, the fire safety regulations for hotels are extremely high—which, of course, is a good thing in the end.”
She added: “There may be challenges in terms of installations, but there is never a question of whether or not an artist can impose their work on a guest. They can. And if it’s too much, we have 92 other rooms.”