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The history, the architecture, the art, oh my. Katherine Gass, art curator at The Beekman weighs in on Jane Hammond’s butterfly map of Manhattan, suitcases with running water and what makes working with the hotel extraordinary.
The building’s eccentric past draws art and history aficionado’s from every edge of the world. Mirroring the many prominent figures of the Romantic era such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Edgar Allan Poe; Katherine Gass describes The Beekman art collection as “magical.”
Q: Before curating pieces, describe the steps you took in order to fully capture the spirit and history of The Beekman Hotel.
A: We researched the history of the location, the buildings that were previously on the site and their uses. We discovered an incredible literary history that included New York’s first public library where the country’s most celebrated transcendentalist writers gave lectures.
Q: What makes The Beekman Hotel special in comparison to other clients you’ve collected for?
The idea was to create wonder with a contemporary feel while connecting to the history of the site
A: There are so many special aspects about this property. The location near the Brooklyn Bridge, the East River and City Hall Park is wonderful and offers views of some of the city’s most amazing and architecturally important buildings. The gorgeous Queen Anne architecture and red brick Italianate facade was built during one of the most important decades in New York City’s history that included the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge, the opening of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the dedication of the Statue of Liberty. The feeling that this building has lived so many different lives and has seen nearly 150 years of changes in this great city is amazing to me. With so many new glass towers being built today that feel cold, it is so special that this gem has been restored and can give us a glimpse of the glory of the past.
Q: If you had to choose one piece of artwork to sum The Beekman’s ethos, which would you choose?
A: All of the works in the collection connect to The Beekman ethos in one way or another, but if I had to single one out, it would probably be Jane Hammond’s piece All Souls: Buttermilk Channel, 2017, a map of downtown Manhattan which hangs behind the concierge desk and was commissioned exclusively for this project.
Q: What drew you to Jane Hammond’s butterfly map?
A: Hammond created the map by researching maps of Manhattan from 1883, when the building was completed, and the title refers to a time in the city where the rivers were central to trade. She took liberties with the geography that makes it feel more like a memory than an factual map, which is appropriate given the buildings many lives. It is all handmade, from the many layers of Japanese paper to the sculptural butterflies that hover over it. She has also been a resident of New York City for decades and you can feel that authentic emotional connection to place in the work.
Q: Name three works of art every guest must see during their stay.
A: The Kathleen Vance Traveling Landscape, a sculpture in the lobby made from vintage suitcases — it has running water inside — two amazing Patrick Jacobs inset wall sculptures that glow in the archway next to the reception desk, and Cathy Cone’s series of 13 portraits located in The Temple Court, appropriately titled The Temple Courters. This series has a wonderful story that is included in a sweet brochure we created for the art collection, available by request through the website or at the front desk.
Q: If you could describe The Beekman art collection in one word, what would it be and why?
A: Magical! The idea was to create wonder with a contemporary feel while connecting to the history of the site, and I believe we achieved that.