Ask anyone expert in the world of modern and contemporary art which galleries are the most prominent and influential, and one name will always be among them: Hauser & Wirth. But what many may not realize is that in addition to its highly influential place in the art world, the gallery is also a growing player in the luxury hospitality business. Should an art gallery also own a boutique hotel? Or a private club? Or a number of hot eateries in London and LA? To which we say, why not? Contemporary art gallery Hauser & Wirth is expanding its hospitality empire with the recent acquisition of a private club and new pub restaurant in London, along with its 5-star hotel in Scotland. Here’s what you need to know.
Art Gallery Hauser & Wirth is also a Powerful Hospitality Player
Modern and contemporary art is a glamorous business that occasionally proves to be highly lucrative. But its subject to the same booms and busts as luxury real estate and the stock market. So if you own a global art gallery, why not diversify?
One gallery has quietly been building an entirely new line of business in hospitality, acquiring or creating several restaurants, a boutique hotel and a members-only private club – Hauser & Wirth.
hauser & wirth continues to expand its footprint
Founded and run by power couple Manuela Hauser and Iwan Wirth, the firm’s first gallery opened in Zurich in 1992. The mega-gallery now has locations in New York, London, Hong Kong, Zurich and Los Angeles. And also on an uninhabited island off the coast of Minorca, Spain.
Among the artists Hauser & Wirth represents are some of the most celebrated and talked-about: Martin Creed, Amy Sherald, Mark Bradford, Rashid Johnson and Pipilotti Rist. As well as the estates of Louise Bourgeois, Alexander Calder and Philip Guston.
While one could argue that luxury hotels and fine dining restaurants are subject to exactly the same cyclicality as contemporary art, and that in fact they move in tandem, one could also argue that a sharp eye and a global brand with unparalleled access to ultra high net worth individuals makes for a great owner of a chic hospitality empire.
a global art gallery boldly moves into the hospitality space
Whether it makes good business sense or is just another way to market the art gallery and expand its influence, Hauser & Wirth stands out among the modern and contemporary galleries in its bold entrance into a new line of business. It’s all being done under the auspices of Art Farm, the Wirths’ hospitality arm.
Here’s what the Hauser & Wirth gallery owns in the hospitality space. If you visit any of these establishments, you’re sure to have a marvelous aesthetic experience, if nothing else.
hauser & wirth hospitality empire includes boutique hotel and several restaurants
1. The Fife Arms, Scotland
An Anglophile’s dream, a stay at the 5-star Fife Arms in Braemar, Scotland – nestled in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park – is both a trip back in time and a marvelous experience of the present day.
Built in the 19th century, Queen Victoria paid multiple visits to the Fife Arms Hotel, and it’s said that those stays led to her purchase of Balmoral, which is just 15 minutes away. Now, more than 14,000 works of art – both antiques and commissioned works – grace the property. Including a Steinway piano that LA-based contemporary artist Mark Bradford “creatively reimagined.” And a delicate painting made by HRH Queen Victoria herself.
In addition to the art collection, 46 unique suites and several dining options, guests will find a lush garden created by a Chelsea Flower Show medalist. And a small spa for massages and mani-pedis. If you’re in on this, you can book your stay here.
2. Durslade Farmhouse, Bruton, Somerset, England
Durslade Farmhouse in Somerset is a 6-room 18th-Century restored farmhouse co-located with the Hauser & Wirth gallery in Somerset. But don’t expect a cozy, mumsy rural B&B atmosphere. Many of the rooms have been left raw, with plaster and exposed copper piping. The walls are hung with works by some of Hauser & Wirth’s most notable artists, though, so you probably won’t mind.
Opened in 2014, there’s a Farm Shop adjacent to the Farmhouse, where guests will find seasonal produce and artisanal small-batch items like cheese and honey.
3. The Roth Bar & Grill, Bruton, Somerset, England
Situated just across the courtyard from Durslade Farmhouse, Roth Bar & Grill combines seasonal food with contemporary art. The owners note: “the restaurant has at its core a site-specific bar created by long-term friends and artists, Björn and Oddur Roth, the son and grandson of artist Dieter Roth. In addition, the restaurant’s dining room is adorned with an intimate and personal salon style hang of works based on the intertwining themes of food, cooking, animals, and the countryside.”
4. Manuela, Los Angeles
Located in the Downtown Arts District of Los Angeles, restaurant Manuela is adjacent to Hauser & Wirth’s Los Angeles gallery. Open for brunch, lunch and dinner, the eatery showcases commissioned works from artists Paul McCarthy, Mark Bradford and Raymond Pettibon.
5. The Groucho Club, SoHo, London
The Groucho Club in SoHo London is “a private members club open to men and women, formed in 1985” in London’s West End. The vibe is meant to attract creatives and those working in fields like publishing, advertising and contemporary art. The Dean Street property features several bars, two restaurants, private event rooms and seventeen bedrooms (open only to members and their guests).
a members-only club for the creative class
At the time of the acquisition, Art News noted: “The 37-year-old club has garnered a reputation for its exclusivity. It has hosted some of the most high-profile members of the British art scene, including artist Damien Hirst, who reportedly partied there when he won the Turner Prize in 1995. The club—whose name is a reference to Groucho Marx’s famed remark of not wanting to belong to a club that would have him as a member—accepted women as members at a time when most businesses of its kind were only open to men.”
“The Groucho Club has a collection of art by famed British artists, among them Hirst, Michael Craig-Martin, Tracey Emin, Peter Blake, Yinka Shonibare, and Banksy. The Financial Times reported that the club was acquired by $48.9 million. The Groucho’s membership currently numbers around 5,000 people.”
6. The Audley Pub and Mount St. Restaurant, Mayfair, London
The Audley is a classic 19th-century London pub, built in 1888 and located on a corner of the lovely and exclusive Mount Street in Mayfair. But its newly renovated and filled with treasures from Hauser & Wirth. While the menu is steeped in tradition – think Scotch eggs, rarebit toast and roast beef sandwiches – the ambiance is art gallery chic.
Just above the pub, the first floor, the Mount St. Restaurant is slightly more formal, serving “elevated British classics such as lobster pie and mock turtle crockets.” And of course, more art! Including an installation by star American artist Rashid Johnson.
7. Isla del Rey, Minorca, Spain
On the uninhabited 10.5 acre Isla del Rey, off the coast of the Spanish island Minorca, you’ll find a little art paradise that’s accessible only by boat. Among the remains of a sixth-century basilica; an olive grove and an orange grove; and a building constructed in the 18th-century as a naval hospital, Hauser & Wirth established an art center with eight galleries, where large-scale works can be shown with no constraints on space.
The opening artist was painter Mark Bradford, who curated the American Pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale. This summer, the space was home to new works by Rashid Johnson, created during the global pandemic while the world was on lockdown.
Hauser & Wirth expands from art into hospitality
Contemporary art gallery Hauser & Wirth is expanding its hospitality empire with the recent acquisition of a private club and new pub restaurant in London, along with its 5-star hotel the Fife Arms in Scotland. And its outposts in LA and on an island off the coast of Minorca.
What does all of this mean? It’s hard to say if this is a business model that other galleries should adopt. But if we had the means, we’d do exactly what Hauser & Wirth is doing. Because art plus food plus a chic place to stay sounds like the very definition of modern luxury. Have you experienced any of these locations, dear reader? What did you think?