The Swatch Art Peace Hotel
Discovering a dynamic artistic scene in a fascinating location1 April 2013
Eighteen artists are invited to stay for periods of between three and six months in one of the recently refurbished studios of this sumptuous building. Half way between East and West, the past and the future, we offer a guided tour of this extraordinary project.
The garish adverts that flash by on the small screen right before my eyes can’t stop me admiring the prowess of the taxi driver. Constantly overtaking in a concerto of beeping horns, his rather loose interpretation of the rules of the road is impressive to say the least. Despite the apparent chaos, road traffic is a mirror image of the entire city, where there’s no escaping the sense of being carried along in a kind of organic conveyor belt.
You’ll find the hotel in the Bund, a stretch of embanked riverfront along the Huangpu River. This landmark area is undoubtedly Shanghai’s main tourist attraction. Sightseers from all over the country stroll along the promenade, while couples in their Sunday best have their photograph taken to mark their engagement in a picturesque setting. For generations of Chinese, this district is famous above all for its succession of buildings constructed in the European architectural style. During the 1930s and until the advent of the Chinese Communist party, this area, known as the “riverfront of foreigners”, accommodated the banks and businesses of the colonial powers. Following several decades of decay, remarkable efforts were made to restore the buildings to their former glory. Today, Shanghai’s most prestigious and luxurious hotels and boutiques can be found in the Bund.
As a venue housing under a single roof retail outlets, an exhibition room dedicated to watchmaking, luxurious suites, a panoramic restaurant and living space for artists, the Swatch Art Peace Hotel has fulfilled its ambition of creating a distinctive style. The building itself is a symbol of the neighborhood’s historical heritage. It was in one of the top floor meeting rooms that representatives of the most powerful nations of the day signed the first treaty banning the opium trade. A century later, discussions now tend to focus on art and design. Two floors of the building are set aside exclusively for international artists working with different art forms.
After their online applications have been examined, eighteen artists will be selected to live for three to six months in the building’s incredibly luxurious lofts and studios. A distinctive feature of this project is that it integrates both known and unknown artists ; the admission criteria are deliberately very accessible. The only obligations are the fee of 30 Swiss francs for processing of the application (which sum is donated in full to Doctors Without Borders) and the “trace” which the artist will be asked to leave behind on completion of his or her stay.