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For the Sake of Hotel Art: The Restored Lobby Ceiling Mural at Chicago’s Palmer House

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  Site Where: 17 E. Monroe St., Chicago, IL, 60603
March 16, 2012 at 11:04 AM | by | Comments (0)

There are hotels like the Renaissance New Orleans Arts where art is used to create a sort of sanctuary for guests, and then there are hotels that have designed entire lobbies around art. Case in point: the iconic lobby ceiling mural at The Palmer House Hilton. We stopped by earlier this week following a recently completed, massive restoration of the mural and totally fell under the hotel’s art for art’s sake spell.

Sinking low into our plush chairs, we crooned our necks to take in the opulent, all-encompassing scene, which is practically the size of a basketball court. A tribute to Greek mythology and love, the Michelangelo-esque mural was originally created in the 1920s by French muralist Louis Pierre Rigal.

We counted 21 frescos in all, with Apollo and Aphrodite in the northern hemisphere, Demeter and another goddess in the southern hemisphere and Venus ascending at the center.

Ask any employee at the Palmer House Hilton and you’ll learn a whole lot more about the mural. They’ll even point out other major art works throughout the hotel, like the Winged Angels made of solid bronze and covered in 24-karat gold, originally thought to be created by Bertolli, or Tiffany’s gold chandeliers and famous hand-forged peacock doors.

Sitting there under all that art left us feeling pretty hushed, but in a magnificent and inspired way. It’s not often you get to sip cocktails with your traveling peeps under such a wildly impressive and storied piece of art, all in the comfort of your own hotel lobby.

According to Ken Price, the hotel’s resident historian and human Rolodex of nearly everything art in Chicago, that’s kind of the point. “We’re not a museum and we don’t want to be a museum,” says Price, “but we do want to delight and deliver totally accessible art that leaves guests saying, ‘Wow, this is really cool.’

[Photos: Nina K Hahn for HotelChatter]

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