Pied Piper at the Palace Hotel

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July 20, 2016
Pied Piper at the Palace Hotel

12 San Francisco Hotels With Museum-Quality Public Art

Not all great works of art are encased behind museum walls or exhibited at conventional galleries. Many of San Francisco’s fabulous art collections are an integral part of the city’s hotels. The result is a treasure trove of sculpture, paintings, murals and tapestries by some of the world’s most notable artists that you can enjoy against the arresting backdrop of a grand lobby or up close and intimate on the walls of your fashionably appointed room.

From the legendary "Pied Piper" painting by Maxfield Parrish at the historic Palace Hotel to the graffiti-inspired art of Shepard Fairey at Hotel des Arts, we’ve distilled a sampling of extraordinary works that you can appreciate on your next stay, or just about anytime you want to visit, no check-in needed.   

Palace Hotel (2 New Montgomery St.) 
Enter this landmark historic hotel’s stunning Garden Court and its marble columns, massive chandeliers, and majestic atrium crowned with more than 80,000 panes of stained glass will take your breath away. Then cozy up to the swanky Pied Piper Bar, where you can sip a cocktail or dine on American cuisine under "The Pied Piper of Hamelin," one of only two Maxfield Parrish barroom artworks in the country. Commissioned in the aftermath of the 1906 Great Earthquake and Fire, the legendary 16-foot-long painting made its debut with the hotel's grand reopening in 1909. Find a hotel room.

Clift San Francisco (495 Geary St.)
Designed by Philippe Starck, this Union Square luxury hotel features a soaring lobby that is a design museum of sorts, including chairs from Ray and Charles Eames, a coffee table and two lamps by Salvador Dali, and a surreal stool inspired by René Magritte. The classic Redwood Room bar, paneled with the wood of a single redwood tree, features digital images of the original Gustav Klimt lithographs that hung on the walls before Stark redesigned the hotel. Later in the evening, these images transition to depict an "Italian Soap Opera," a story of unrequited love. Find a hotel room.

Hotel Grace (580 Geary St.) 
This completely modernized, stately 100-year-old building is one of San Francisco’s newest hotels, just three blocks from Union Square. Decorated with 1930's glitz featuring plush fabrics, lacquered furniture, and chrome accents, the lobby features a white bronze Dress Sculpture from the Nocturnes series by Karen LaMonte, an artist known for her monumental forms made from cast glass, ceramic, metal and bronze. Two works in blown and sculpted glass by Oregon artist David Willis anchor the space in the Pineapple Bistro & Bar, with more fine art and commissioned works scheduled for installation. Find hotel room.

Hotel Union Square (114 Powell St.)
The exquisite mosaic tile murals by Helen Bruton Bell in the entry way are an iconic piece of this chic Union Square hotel. The hotel was originally built in 1908 for the 1915 Pan-Pacific International Exposition, but the murals were not added until 1935, when it was known as the Golden West Hotel. Find a hotel room.

Hotel des Arts (447 Bush St.)
This boutique hotel in San Francisco’s “French District” offers 51 guest rooms where you’ll find imaginative installations and edgy graffiti-inspired works of art. Every room features different local or international street artists such as Shepard Fairey, David Choe, Kelly Tunstall, Matsu Misk, Jet Martinez, Buff Monster, Jeremy Fish, Casey O’Connell and many more. Not only will you find art in the rooms, the hotel also functions as an art gallery, which is reflected on all five floors. Find a hotel room.

The St. Regis San Francisco (125 Third St.)
Located next door to the new San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, with an entrance to the Museum of the African Diaspora through the lobby, this sophisticated hotel also has its own art collection lining its public spaces. It’s an extraordinary setting, with 30 percent original works by Bay Area artists, and featuring contemporary works by artists Alison Rossiter, Hans Shule, Mari-Ruth Oda and Chip Cooper. Find a hotel room.

Four Seasons (757 Market St.)
Just steps from Union Square and around the corner from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and other museums and galleries, this high-end modern hotel offers two self-guided tours of its outstanding contemporary art collection (brochures at the Concierge desk). With more than 90 paintings, sculptures, prints and works in glass by more than 40 California-based artists, the hotel is a must-stop for San Franciscan art lovers and visitors to the city. Find a hotel room.

Hyatt Regency San Francisco (5 Embarcadero Center)
Adjacent to the sculpture-filled Embarcadero Center complex (which offers its own self-guided art tour), this dramatic waterfront hotel features a reflecting pool in the soaring atrium lobby that is the setting for Charles O. Perry’s "Eclipse," a 40-foot high geodesic sphere consisting of 1,400 pieces of curved metal tubing joined together in pentagons and supported by three massive steel legs. Fabulous tapestries and paintings by local and international artists can also be found throughout the hotel. Find a hotel room.  

W San Francisco Hotel (181 Third St.)
Inside this stylish SoMa hotel’s three-story entrance, a vibrant, otherworldly light sculpture "Lumina" by MadLab is a lustrous, 27-foot mass reminiscent of bioluminescent jellyfish, cosmic star clouds, and the brain’s neural networks. Perforated ceiling panels behind the check-in desks represent the fog of San Francisco, accented by a sculptural piece commissioned to represent the city at night. Lisa Gemmiti and her team at Gemmiti Model Art sculpted the art map's topography to emphasize changes in grade, and 2,000 LEDs in four colors on four circuits were installed, with red LEDs representing points of interest and a single purple LED to designate the W Hotel. Find a hotel room.

Hotel Zelos (12 Fourth St.)
Complete with an elegant chandelier, art deco touches, and modern art, this sexy 198-room SoMa hotel doubles as a hip art gallery, with paintings from local museums lining the walls – when we visited, it was a collection of works by modernist master Marc Chagall. The middle courtyard is an urban oasis, adorned with fountains and a fire pit, and the Dirty Habit restaurant, bar and patio draws locals and visitors alike since it’s one of few rooftop spaces in the city. Find a hotel room. 

The Kimpton Buchanan (1800 Sutter St.)
Discover zen-meets-boutique-chic ambience where Japantown, The Fillmore and Pacific Heights neighborhoods converge. The lobby space of this cult-status hotel boasts a dynamic art collection, including a mural by Kelly Ording inspired by the Bay Area landscape and Japanese illustration techniques. A giant Maneki Neko, or "Beckoning Cat," waves at guests, and Japanese TV shows and anime films play on flat-screen TVs. Rooms are designed by acclaimed Japanese pop artist Heisuke Kitazawa, better known as "PCP." Even if you're not Japanese – or an anime geek – you'll find a lot to like. Find a hotel room.

Inn at the Presidio (42 Moraga Ave.)
Surrounded by hiking trails and open spaces, this Georgian Revival-style hotel in the heart of the Presidio was built in 1903 to serve as U.S. Army barracks. Now a historic landmark, the inn’s art program curated by Julie Coyle is an impressive and cohesive collection, providing a true sense of place to where and how San Francisco began. The Commissary restaurant also has some wonderful pieces expressing the history of food at the Presidio. On top of that, internationally acclaimed artist Andrew Goldsworthy has found the Presidio to be an inspiring location, and it houses four of his installations within walking distance of the inn, including his latest, "Earth Wall," inside the Hardie Courtyard in the Officer’s Club. Find a hotel room.

Discover more unique San Francisco hotels displaying works by the hottest current local artists, a legendary photo collection chronicling San Francisco’s Beat era, and the city’s infamous “rock and roll hotel” here.

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