As brands continue to explore the hospitality space by producing their own overnight experiences, hotel brands are still getting creative with how they engage their guests.
Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants made photography the focus of its latest in-hotel experience as part of a new partnership with Fotografiska, a Swedish photography museum that recently opened its first U.S. location in New York in December. The San Francisco-based boutique hotel brand, owned by IHG, and the museum launched “Stay Human,” a traveling pop-up installation that showcases original photography accompanied by audio guides tailored to each photographer.
The installation, which debuted at Kimpton Hotel Eventi in New York on Jan. 28, highlights work from three women artists: Berlin-based photographer and art director Evelyn Bencicova, Los Angeles-based photographer Kelia Anne MacCluskey and New York-based photographer Elizabeth Bick.
The overarching theme of the pop-up ties into Kimpton’s ongoing “Stay Human” campaign, which revolves around the idea of people craving more human experiences and connections in a tech-driven society. For the audio guides, the brand tapped each photographer to interpret the theme in their own way; the photographers disclose their process and point of view behind each photograph. Along with first-person narration, the audio guides also aim to enhance the displays with vivid sound design.
“We launched our Stay Human campaign in 2018, and that has sparked a lot of creative ideas around the way our brand shows up in the guest experience,” said Kathleen Reidenbach, chief commercial officer, Kimpton. “Whether it’s through design or unique guest experiences, we’re constantly looking at opportunities to bring our guests together.”
The installation isn’t Kimpton’s first in-hotel experience tied to the Stay Human campaign. In 2019, the brand expanded its “Room 301” experiment to multiple properties, which offered interactive room stays with unique amenities like painting on a wall, contributing songs to a Spotify community playlist and themed photo booths.
Reidenbach said the goal for “Stay Human” is to give guests a moment to stop, learn about each photographer and their artistic process and (hopefully) reflect on what they experience.
The photographers were curated by Fotografiska, founded by siblings Jan and Per Broman in Stockholm, Sweden in 2010. The museum offers a broad range of rotating photography shows that aim to make the medium more accessible and inclusive; past exhibitions have highlighted works by David LaChapelle, Annie Leibovitz and Sally Mann.
“Kimpton and Fotografiska have a shared commitment to fostering genuine connections and inspiring a more conscious world, so we couldn’t be more thrilled to have Kimpton as our official hotel partner for our opening year,” said Pam Harris, executive director at Fotografiska New York, in a statement. “Together, we’ve organized this thought-provoking installation as a way to bring people together through the power of photography.”
Fotografiska’s New York outpost functions as a multi-concept venue. The 45,000-square-foot space on Park Avenue houses three floors of exhibition space; Veronika, a restaurant and bar operated by Starr Restaurants; and a space that hosts programming for museum members and is available for private events.
Kimpton is the official hotel sponsor of the New York museum for 2020; Reidenbach explained the partnership was natural.
“With Fotografiska, we were truly inspired by the work they were doing in Stockholm,” she said. “We were interested in exploring a partnership focused on making art more approachable and accessible to people. We could do that through our public spaces.”
Since the pop-ups will be housed in public spaces, the brand hopes to draw locals along with hotel guests. Reidenbach also noted spotlighting three women photographers was a coincidence; the museum pitched art that Kimpton decided resonated with their brand and the campaign, before they knew who the artists were.
To execute the pop-up, Kimpton worked with branding agency Allison+Partners and PR agency Eleven Six PR. Fotografiska brought in experiential agency CSM to lead the production and build.
Reidenbach said the brand plans to measure the success of each pop-up based on feedback from guests and locals, which the brand will monitor through social media posts, earned media impressions and traffic to their site. Kimpton also launched a microsite for the partnership, which will offer a VR tour of the installation in the next few weeks.
Following its New York run, the installation will travel to five more Kimpton properties through the end of August, including the Epic Hotel in Miami, Nine Zero Hotel in Boston, Gray Hotel in Chicago, Hotel Born in Denver and Everly Hotel in Los Angeles.
As part of the partnership, Kimpton is also loaning out Fujifilm Instax cameras to guests and serving photography-themed cocktails during hotel happy hours at select properties. For guests staying at Kimpton Eventi or the Kimpton Muse Hotel in New York, the company is offering packages that include tickets to the museum and complimentary welcome drinks.
Since Kimpton’s partnership with Fotografiska runs through at least the end of 2020, Reidenbach said there’s a possibility for more arts- and photography-focused experiences following the pop-up tour.
“One thing we’ve learned over the years is that Kimpton guests have a huge passion for photography,” she said, praising the content generated by Instagram users who tag and check into their properties. “I think there’s a lot more to come in this space. There’s been flexibility with how our Stay Human campaign has continued to unfold.”