Walking into the 21 C Museum Hotel is a bit of an experience. Greeted in a lobby featuring a desk created by Do Ho Suh, best known for his intricate sculptures, there is an ambiance of light and freshness.
The 21 C Museum Hotel is a combination boutique hotel, contemporary art museum, and restaurant. Modeled after the award winning flagship in Louisville, Kentucky, it has a mission of engaging the public with contemporary art as well as supporting the revitalization of American downtowns. 21 C Museum Hotel renovated the 100 year old Metropole Hotel building—an historic landmark in downtown Cincinnati—restoring it to its original use as a hotel and adding the art museum, making it a cultural center in the heart of downtown.
The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Many features were retained during the renovation including a sweeping staircase leading to the second floor ballroom.
The grouping together of museum and hotel is the creative brainchild of Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown, Louisville philanthropists.
Located in the heart of the city’s Backstage District, across from the Aronoff Center for the Arts, the museum hotel, at 609 Walnut St, opened in November 2012. It has 156 rooms and 19 suites. Included is the hotel, gallery, the restaurant and a spa.
My tour led me through the Art Gallery only.
The Main Gallery with adjacent pre-function space, allows for banquet seating and receptions.
Plastic four foot penguins add an interesting note of whimsy to the entry and are scattered throughout. The lobby is simple and uncluttered as is the remainder of the building. In the lounge, portraits of famous-and infamous-lovers of US presidents grace the wall. It includes one of Monica Lewinsky. The second floor houses many paintings and art pieces including a “moving” picture.
21 C Museum Hotel’s art program is led by Chief Curator and Director of Art Programming, Alice Gray Stites.
The museum portion is free and open to the public 24 hrs a day.
Adjacent to the exterior of the building is an interactive chandelier by Australian artist, Werner Reiterer, its brightness illuminating the street for passersby.
On the day of my visit, workers could be seen setting up for a luncheon in the ballroom and an air of bustle was present. In other parts of the museum, visitors roamed the various rooms, and I joined them, walking amidst the paintings on the second floor. I wandered from room to room, mesmerized by the pictures, artifacts, and paintings. One painting in particular caught my eye and is of a baptism. I was struck by the feel of open space and the freedom of movement it suggested.
I would definitely advocate a visit to the 21 C Museum Hotel.