My favorite room
Hans Ulrich Obrist

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 40, Autumn 2014

Page 5

My favorite room
Hans Ulrich Obrist

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 40, Autumn 2014

Page 5

My favorite room
Hans Ulrich Obrist

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 40, Autumn 2014

Page 5

My favorite room
Hans Ulrich Obrist

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 40, Autumn 2014

Page 5

Hans Ulrich Obrist found his Paris hotel room too dreary – so he invited round some artists to liven things up

I had always wanted to live in a hotel. In the summer of 1993, I left Switzerland for Paris and borrowed a room used by the artists Gloria Friedmann and Bertrand Lavier. It was at the Carlton Palace Hotel, a rather run-down two-star, and I found the room somewhat ugly.

At the time I was reading the biography of the French critic, Félix Fénéon, who was close friends with Georges Seurat and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. In the book, Fénéon describes how at home he felt, when in hotel rooms. Seurat had given him some small paintings that Fénéon would pack in his luggage, and so wherever he traveled, he would turn drab hotel rooms into exhibition spaces.

It gave me the idea to invite my friends to exhibit in my room, chambre 763. Every day over the next couple of weeks, different artists came to the hotel. At the beginning, the hotel had no idea what was going on – they thought I was a strange guest with too many visitors.

But soon, the artists and their work transformed the room. Annette Messager, the French artist, did the bed. She placed taxidermied animals on it under a mosquito net. In order not to disturb the installation, I had to sleep alongside them. Then Fischli & Weiss installed a radio that looped an hour of French radio, recorded during the hottest day of the year. Gerhard Richter brought in a mirroring sphere that was placed on the floor; while Bertrand Lavier painted over the window in different colors so the light would be refracted and reflected in various ways. The Italian Arte Povera artist Michelangelo Pistoletto came with a yellow book, which he split and glued to a column in the middle of the room, so it became the yellow column of Pistoletto. But when the German artist Reiner Ruthenbeck wanted his own room for his piece, I had to rent a second room at the hotel on a different floor. Whoever came to room 763 was given the key to the second room to see Ruthenbeck's work, a single black piece of wood in the bed.

By the end, more than 70 artists had contributed a piece, and every structural element had been taken over by their work. Art is about transformation and this was about transforming the most generic hotel room into an incredibly dense environment.

We kept regular opening hours every day, from 10am to 6pm, and I gave every visitor a personal guided tour through the exhibition. It was such an intimate way of seeing art, very different from being in a museum. By the time the hotel realized what was going on, the show was in the newspapers, and it was too late to stop it. The Carlton Palace has since been renovated – and the room no longer exists. All that remains is the documentation.

Hotel Carlton Palace. Chambre 763: An exhibition by Hans Ulrich Obristis published by Walther Koenig, Cologne, £12.

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