voco The Bank Rosebank’s Art Butlers, specially trained hotel staff members, are putting the ‘Yay!’ into art appreci-yay-tion, by offering guided tours of the hotel’s more than 750 artworks by 42 local artists.
The tours, convened due to constant requests from guests about the stories behind the striking murals, photographs, sculptures and light-led installations that are scattered through the hotel’s public areas, guestrooms and workspaces, are part of the hotel’s commitment to promoting local talent while adding value to the guest experience.
“We are so excited about our Art Butler project,” says Jessica Redinger, general manager, voco The Bank Rosebank, Johannesburg, South Africa. “It fits in with our mission to be different and innovative, while still charming and friendly. Other hotels do have art collections, sometimes with concierges, but we are the only hotel where we have trained up staff members to be Art Butlers. The art in our hotel is not just an afterthought. It is very much a part of the look and feel of the hotel, so it makes sense that we have used the art to bring our staff and guests closer together – all while promoting our awesome local art.”
The current Art Butlers are Shanice Reddy, who usually works in reservations and Abigail Malatji, whose day job is supervisor of housekeeping.
“The training took a day,” says Malatji, “and then we were given notes to refer to. We both have our favourite artworks, but the best part is discussing the art with the guests, to find out what they like and why they like it.”
“It’s the interaction that is so nice,” agrees Shanice. “That for me is the best part. Each tour is different. Most of the time we have really informal chats about what the guests like, and it gives me some insight as well. I have been taught the background and the story behind each artwork, but sometimes the guests also know quite a bit and then I also learn from them.”
The tours last for around 20 minutes and are very casual. Guests are welcomed with a beverage and the tours start on the ground floor of the hotel in the common areas, and then go up the stairs to common areas on other floors, such as along the corridors and in the brand new gymnasium. Art is also displayed in private and restricted areas, and the tour includes these areas if they are not in use.
Tours happen daily but need to be booked through reception to fit in with the working schedule of the two Art Butlers.
“The guests often ask us if they can buy the art,” continues Shanice. “Many of the artworks are for sale and the art butlers can facilitate contact details of Art Gazette to buy the original pieces from the artists.”
“voco The Bank Rosebank is surrounded by contemporary art galleries, connecting to a cultural network,” says Morné Visagie, artist, curator and co-founder of Art Gazette, a curated platform of international contemporary fine art, that assists interior designers and trade associates in building collections of art for public and private spaces. Visagie is the curator of all the art at the hotel. “Art Gazette worked right alongside the design and architecture team when the building was transformed into the hotel. We wanted art to be central to that.”
“Rosebank is Johannesburg’s premier art district,” says Laurice Taitz, publisher of online newsletter Johannesburg(Joburg) In Your Pocket. “And along with neighbouring Parkwood it shares the highest concentration of art galleries in Johannesburg. Its status as an art hub has been cemented further by Joburg’s two main art fairs – FNB Art Joburg and Turbine Art Fair – which have recently chosen Rosebank as the key venue for events.”
“Art has been part of Rosebank for a long time and has contributed to creating Joburg’s most walkable and attractive district, from the Edoardo Villa sculpture at the entrance to voco The Bank to the incredible display of outdoor sculpture at Keyes Art Mile,” she continues. “The city’s oldest gallery, the Everard Read, is here, while its sister gallery Circa is a key architectural landmark.”
For the two Art Butlers, the training, the interaction, and the regular guest appreciation has given them insight and pride in South Africa’s artistic heritage. While reluctant to identify favourites, both of them agree that the most striking piece is the mural in Workshop17, while Cathy Abraham’s fusion of art and science is the most interesting.
“Art must take reality by surprise,” said French novelist and playwright Francoise Sagan. At voco The Bank Rosebank, she would have felt right at home.