One of my favorite examples of a hotel cleverly incorporating edgy art into its design, the hip 21c Museum Hotel is on the northwest edge of historic downtown Louisville, along the city's aptly named Museum Row. It's steps from the Frazier International History Museum, Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, and Louisville Science Center, not to mention the festive gay bar, Starbase Q. What's unusual about this 90-room boutique property is that it doesn't merely contain interesting artwork throughout its rooms or public areas, as many design-minded properties do - it actually contains an impressive contemporary art museum, which is directly off of the lobby, has its own extensive galleries, and is open 24/7 (with the exception of video installations, which go dark from 1 am until 7 am). Admission is free. Just walk into galleries from the lobby, and start exploring. Also in the hotel, you can shop for artwork and intriguing gifts in a large museum gift shop, book a treatment in the small but well-equipped spa and fitness center, and dine on some of the finest contemporary cuisine in Kentucky, at Proof on Main restaurant and bar.
It's been a half-decade since 21c so dramatically changed the Louisville hotel landscape, and over the next few years, this innovative hospitality-arts company has plans to develop new museum-hotels in three more cities. Most recently, 21c announced plans to open a 120-room property in the industrial section of downtown Durham, North Carolina. Projections are for the Durham property to open sometime in late 2014 or early 2015. The 156-room 21c Museum, occupying the historic Metropole Hotel building in downtown Cincinnati, is just a few months away from opening - the project across from the Aronoff Center for the Arts has a planned debut of late 2012.
Still more 21c Museum Hotels are in the offing, including one set to begin welcoming guests in early 2013 in Bentonville, Arkansas, the headquarters of Walmart and home of the acclaimed Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; and another under development in Kentucky's second-largest city, Lexington.