The Hotel St. George is one of Helsinki’s most unlikely art destinations. Set facing Old Church Park, the handsome hotel accommodates a collection of more than 300 artworks, many of which hang in its 153 rooms and common spaces.
The Neo-Renaissance building was an early work of Onni Tarjanne, a local architect whose most prominent legacy is the Finnish National Theater. When the hotel opened earlier this year, the property expanded to include another of Tarjanne’s designs, an adjacent five-story work of Art Nouveau Rationalism. Together they encase a series of sleek interior spaces drenched in light—not unlike the upscale art galleries nearby.
“The relationship between the work of art and time was a central criterion, along with exceptional craftsmanship,” says marketing manager Heta Kärki of the hotel’s approach to curation. One recent example is Ai Weiwei’s silk-and-bamboo Tianwu, a mythical dragon that enchants the hotel lobby from above. It’s a coup for Hotel St. George; until now, the Chinese artist’s work has been exclusive to galleries, museums and private collections.
More than just spectators, hotel guests are encouraged to explore creative expression. They gather for the Hotel St. George book club, a throwback to the building’s early history as a printing house and home of the Finnish Literature Society. The discussions are set in Wintergarden, an elegant living room that draws inspiration from the previous century: classic European salons and the Tulenkantajat, a society of Finnish expressionist writers. “The arts, culture, bohemian intellectuals and thinkers of the time were all focused on pleasure, and the sanctity of life,” explains Kärki. “In Finland, culture in all its forms was in bloom, with new literature and arts emerging hand in hand with the strengthening national identity.”
The hotel works closely on with several galleries and museums, listing events and recommendations on the St. George Journal blog. Says Kärki, “The most important way to show our appreciation for art is to encourage our guests to explore the Helsinki art scene.”
This story originally appeared on Skandiastyle.com.