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October 29th, 2008 RICHARD SPEER | Visual Arts
 

The Nines

Don’t just look at local art—sleep with it.

     
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Bird Song Chandelier: by Melody Owen and Ian Gilula.

What’s the artiest hotel in Portland? Competition just got stiffer thanks to the newly opened, fancy-schmancy Nines hotel, which occupies the top nine floors of the historic Meier & Frank Building. We’re stoked the Nines has filled its common areas and 331 rooms with artwork—much of it newly commissioned—by local artists.

Freelance curator Paige Powell has ably distilled the Hydra-headed Northwest aesthetic into a cohesive experience, loosely themed around the fashion-driven history of Meier & Frank. “I was given a very specific design approach before I started,” Powell says. “They wanted it to be ‘nostalgic modern,’ so I interpreted that in a way that was minimalist and beautiful, with a good balance between history and a clean, modern aesthetic.”

The first artwork guests see is Hap Tivey’s luminous Pearl Moon, which hangs above the hotel’s ground-floor reception desk. On the eighth floor, Ellen George’s BLOOM delivers an expansive ode to water and nature on six massive panels of locally fabricated Bullseye glass, Bird Song Chandelier, an eerily lit installation by Melody Owen and Ian Gilula hangs in the stairwell between the sixth and eighth floors. It’s a bravura gesture, monumental but not overpowering. Meanwhile, works by Molly Vidor, Jessica Bonin, Eugenia Pardue and a constellation of PNCA students fill hotel rooms and suites. Photographs by Gus Van Sant and the members of Pink Martini adorn the walls of the paneled library, which is perhaps the huge hotel’s most charming space.

In all, there are 425 pieces of art on display, valued at more than $1 million. They complement the Nines’ common areas, which are invigorated by eccentrically long white leather sofas and glass-bordered conversation rooms. The rooms themselves, with their deliciously gaudy pendant chandeliers and patterned turquoise chairs, are studies in opulent camp. The hotel’s two glaring design mishaps are the fake reeds surrounding the Urban Farmer restaurant and the bland, Sheraton-worthy balcony railings that punctuate the seven-story courtyard, which would be improved by a contrasting-color paint job. On the whole, the Nines is a far better showplace for local art than the Hotel Lucia, with its tiresome Gregory Grenons and David Hume Kennerlys, or the Heathman, with its dated pop collection. Enjoying the art at the Nines is spendy, though (after a brief introductory honeymoon, rates for a basic room will reportedly begin north of $300), so grabbing a drink in the atrium bar may be the cheapest—and most glamorous—way to enjoy the collection.


SEE IT: The Nines, 525 SW Morrison St., 877-229-9995
 
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