There is every reason in the world to love the Chilean capital, not only because of its signature luxury hotel, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Santiago, and not only because of its sensational wines – but because of its art.
Apparently in 2010 an art gallery, La Sala, worked with the Municipality of Las Condes to introduce art into urban spaces. Ordinary metal-framed wood benches were designed and signed by such artists as Antonia Boza, Fernanda Gutierrez and Totoy Zamudio. The miraculous thing is that in over two years they have not been vandalized. The gal is impressed.
In England, such benches would be vandalised immediately. Even in Buenos Aires, just across the Andes from here, graffiti are scrawled over public statues, and in one case genitalia of a nude classical hero have been sprayed bright yellow.
Here along Avenida Isidora Goyenechea in Santiago, people know how to behave, which is very impressive. This means everyone can enjoy the park benches that show lots of brightly-coloured birds, and perhaps the outline of a carton strip female, Jane perhaps, from Tarzan and the Apes.
There is even a bench that looks as if the 16th century Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch has been at work. Every bench is different – there must be a couple of dozen of them – and they fit in so well with the other art all around.
Clarence Fisk has reported a stroll through the Las Condes area looking at the art – find it on Go South America. Or put into any search engine ‘park benches in Santiago’. Walking along Avenida Goyenechea is an absolute delight.
At around 1200 every weekday, groups of businessmen – no jackets or ties in summer – are walking along to lunch. Where are the businesswomen? Ah here are three, all having a smoke. Not good.
At Avenida Goyenechea 3000 you find the mighty Territoria complex that includes W Santiago. You can get into the labyrinth of the 196-room hotel through a variety of entrances, mostly via shops. The brands here include Bang & Olufsen, Jonathan Adler, LaRok, DVF, Kenneth Jay Lane, Foley & Corinna, Hudson, Madison Marcus and Modern Amusement.
When you finally get to the fourth-floor ‘reception’ you find a theatrical set of haphazard book displays, big Macs for anyone’s use and a sprawl of casually dressed American travellers working their own devices. There is a front desk, with a gigantic art display over. The design here is all Tony Chi, he of fabulous Park Hyatt Shanghai and so much more.
Obviously bell-desk has to be down at ground level and, taking your wheelie bag there for temporary storage, you find more haphazard art in the form of the biggest suitcases possible to have wheels, without breaking.
Since their owners seem only to wear t-shirts and shorts and flipflops, one wonders what on earth they have put in their cases, stored before tonight’s American flight back to New York, or Delta to Atlanta. A fixed sculpture, sitting on a nearby bench, almost invites you to come and sit by it.
Like all W hotels, this one has a range of entertainment places, offering Chilean, international, Japanese and Peruvian food, and a Rande Gerber bar. There is also a massive indoor-outdoor restaurant run by Burgundian expat Jean-Paul Bondoux.
At ground level here at Avenida Isidora Goyenechea you look down one floor at the restaurant. To one side rises, up through two floors, a glass-walled wine tower with thousands of bottles – must be incredibly difficult to dust them.
Bondoux has a restaurant in Uruguay somewhere, but he first came to fame when he opened an eponymous restaurant, with Relais & Chateaux membership, in Hotel Alvear Palace, a Leading property in Buenos Aires…. now THAT is yet another luxury hotel to be visited on the way back through Argentina.