|By Suzanne Marta, The Dallas Morning News|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Apr. 18, 2004 - Fine art has been a fixture of the Wyndham Anatole for decades, though the Dallas hotel hasn't done much to promote its bronze Buddhas, Chinese lacquerware and giant wooden elephants.
That's about to change.
The 1,600-room convention hotel has put together an eight-page guide of its most popular pieces so art lovers can learn more about them as they meander through the complex's entryways, halls and gardens. An hourlong audio guide is also available. By the end of the month, hotel officials hope to add a virtual tour on the Anatole's Web site.
"The Anatole is a convention hotel, but it's also an elegant luxury hotel," said Tom Faust, the hotel's vice president of sales and marketing. "This helps us express that in a tangible way."
The hotel has placed art throughout its public spaces since it opened in 1978. But the Anatole has never used the works as a marketing tool for business travelers, who may be more interested in the hotel's collection of six ballrooms, five boardrooms and 76 meeting rooms than its Wedgwood porcelain.
The art has always attracted the attention of visitors, hotel officials said. Whenever customers performed site inspections, questions about meeting space inevitably drifted to curiosity about the works, such as the two 12-foot-high segments of the Berlin Wall in the garden area or the 650-pound hand-painted gold-and-enamel plate from China's Guangdong Province at the entry of the west wing of meeting rooms.
"I'd always make sure my sales team had notes with them," Mr. Faust said.
The two 3-ton carved elephants that stand guard outside the Chantilly Ballroom, for example, never fail to raise eyebrows.
Even though the pachyderms were added in honor of the 1984 Republican National Convention, "they let Democrats in, too," Mr. Faust joked.
The artworks -- representing one of the largest private collections in a hotel -- help set the Anatole apart.
"You can't not notice the art at the Anatole," said John Keeling, a Houston-based hospitality industry expert with PKF Consulting. "People probably aren't going to make a decision to go somewhere because of it, but it's one more thing that they can enjoy when they're there."
While hotels have commonly incorporated art into their public spaces, there are few examples where a property's art is marketed as a guest amenity.
The Renaissance Arts Hotel, which opened in New Orleans last August, includes an art gallery as a tie-in with the city's adjacent arts district. It also offers self-guided tours of artwork in its public areas and sculpture garden.
The art tours also help hotel sales staff underscore how the Anatole is different from its newest similarly sized competitor, the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center on Lake Grapevine.
From a decor standpoint, the hotels couldn't be more different.
"Gaylord is like an indoor theme park," Mr. Keeling said.
About two dozen of the Anatole's art pieces are on the tour -- although the hotel has more than 1,000 tucked away in guest suites, individual meeting rooms, offices and restaurants.
"We wanted to make sure people could always access the items on the tour," Mr. Faust said.
Most of the hotel's collection falls into the category of "decorative arts" rather than museum pieces, said Anne Bromberg, the Cecil and Ida Green Curator of Ancient and South Asian Art for the Dallas Museum of Art.
"It's meant to be shown in a public space," Dr. Bromberg said. "That's very different from what you would buy for a museum."
For one thing, it has to be able to stand the wear and tear from so much visitor traffic. That's a point underscored by the Anatole's GOP elephants, whose original ivory tusks were broken long ago.
"They're painted white wood ones now," Mr. Faust said.
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(c) 2004, The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. WBR,