As I walk into the lobby of Australia’s eighth Art Series hotel that’s taken up residence in one of Brisbane’s hippest and most happening hubs, it feels like I’ve walked into a welcoming committee ... except there’s no one around.
The collection of famous faces staring back at me are the work of acclaimed Australian painter Vincent Fantauzzo, a man who has won the Archibald People’s Choice award more than anyone else in the history of the renowned Australian art prize for portraiture and the man the design team drew inspiration from for this impressive establishment.
Fantauzzo Art Series Hotel
Indian acting royalty Amitabh Bachchan’s warm smile draws my eye as I familiarise myself with the first of the six storeys. As my glance shifts to the right, I see a selection of framed images featuring Australian television actress Asher Keddie who is pictured with Fantauzzo, her famous, creative husband. To the left of Bachchan hangs a beautiful portrait of a cheeky-faced young boy in a Superman costume (I find out later this is Fantauzzo’s son, Luca).
As I move toward the check-in counter, Keddie makes another appearance, this time to my left, her piercing eyes appearing to oversee my interaction at the desk. As I proceed to the lifts, I’m drawn to a brilliant rendition of a seated giraffe at the end of the hallway, so engaging.
It’s safe to say that before I’ve even made it to my room, this $100 million (Dhs253 million) flagship Art Series hotel has made quite an impression, but I’m not the only one it’s impressed, since opening earlier this year The Fantauzzo has earned itself “celebrity status” within the industry.
Boasting a fancy geometric facade with a colour palette reminiscent of the surrounding cliffs and the Brisbane River, this new boutique, the gallery-style hotel is the star of the new Howard Smith Wharves development that’s come to life between the Story Bridge and the New Farm cliffs in the past few years.
From its position under the most recognisable of Brisbane’s landmarks, the iconic Story Bridge, guests are able to enjoy contemporary luxury and creativity a 10-minute walk from the CBD.
Just a few metres from the front door you’ll be among the Queensland capital’s classiest cafes and restaurants, family-friendly green spaces and picnic areas. If that’s not enough you’ll have front-row seats to one of the best views Brisbane has to offer, but if you prefer to stay in there’s a rooftop bar that exudes a warm, funky vibe, and a glamorous infinity pool to lounge by that blends into the river beyond if you position yourself in the right spot to see (or capture) it that way.
Those seeking pure artistic appeal will revel in Fantauzzo’s portraits of influential personalities lining the corridors - I’m told each corridor tells a particular story and focuses on a series of works that changed Fantauzzo’s life.
Portraits of Australian actor Heath Ledger, celebrity chef Matt Moran and former prime minister Julia Gillard adorn the walls and ‘Art Advocates’ can guide you on free tours if you so desire. There are in-room art channels and libraries for those wishing to study the works up close too.
My one-bedroom suite is what the designers call a “moody masterpiece”. It faces the cliffs - not quite the riverside vista I was hoping for - but strangely the design works. The craggy rock and vegetation that can be seen outside complement with the dark tones, muted furnishings and statement artworks. The emerald green suede lounge gives the otherwise earthy-toned space a rich feel and to say I’m in love with my room’s portrait of Brandon Walters, the handsome young Indigenous boy who played Nullah alongside Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman’s characters in the film Australia back in 2008, is an understatement. As I look into Walters’ green eyes I’m overcome by a feeling of immense pride - how lucky am I to call this country home, I ask myself. Very, is the answer.
The room is functional and cosy in its appearance, there’s a small desk, comfortable king-bed with accompanying pillow menu, chaise lounge and a good-sized bathroom with one of the best rain showers I’ve experienced, single vanity and toilet.
When it comes to dining the landscape is understated when compared with the offerings on the wharves and unfortunately, the food and service are not up to the standard I expect. Most guests appear satisfied though, so I put it down to differences in personal taste. Polpetta is pitched as a casual, comfortable space with a “fuss-free” all-day dining menu.
Located on lobby level the Italian-style eatery is rustic in its approach with diners presented a menu that has a selection of sharing plates or individual dishes to choose from for a dinner sitting. Pasta is hand-made and there’s a wholesome variety of antipasti options like calamari frittis, grilled octopus and burrata that start from as little as $6 (Dhs15) each. Breakfast is a la carte and I’d recommend the avocado, egg toast and do ask for the coffee extra hot.
After two nights in this beautifully designed artistically superior space I’m of the opinion this is such a welcome addition to the already impressive hotel landscape in the river city - you heard it here first, it’s the new ‘artbeat of Brisbane’.
For more information and bookings visit www.artserieshotels.com.au
Images courtesy of Fantauzzo Art Series Hotel