Art should be an integral part of a hotel experience, says Mark Jacob – and he should know. His parents, Vic and Helen Jacob, have been running Suvretta House, above St Moritz, for yonks. He himself is GM of The Dolder Grand, Urs Schwarzenbach’s ‘little luxury hotel’ above Zurich. This December Mark Jacob launches what the gal thinks is a first, bespoke violin music while you are massaged (it was the idea of the violinist, he generously says, and it does seem to be win-win, though the hotel’s spa, which has 21 treatment rooms, is already phenomenally popular).
Mark Jacob showed more of the 173-room hotel’s art, which could be described as an expansive gallery with constantly-evolving displays. Here we are standing next to a ten-foot clock that Urs Schwarzenbach found in an antique shop somewhere – he owns the entire village of Hambleden, Bucks, in England, as well as property in Australia, where his Australian wife Francesca has set up an Aboriginal art gallery. This clock, set on an Algerian onyx base was made by Albert Carrier-Belleuse and Eugene Farcot and exhibited at the Paris Exposition in 1878.
The pieces are not all old. There are Dalis, Miros and Warhols, and Finland’s Jani Leinonen has framed brown corrugated cardboard inscribed ‘Lindsay Lohan stole all my stuff’. The sculptures are some of my favourites: I love the large hare poised outside the hotel’s entrance in such a way that it looks as if he is leaping above parked vehicles.
You can take your own art tour thanks to an extremely clear and detailed online guide to The Dolder’s 130-plus-piece art collection: borrow an iPad and search by title or location. On the way to the spa, a dancer catches my eye as she twirls round in bulbous glory. She was sculpted by Niki de Saint-Phalle, wife of the controversial Swiss sculptor Jean Tinguely, who did the typical metal ‘mess’ below. This whole piece, finished in 1989, is over 12 feet high. The top part reminds me of the swirling yellow dancer in the rear lobby of the Negresco in Nice. Sometime, goodness only knows when, I should do a guide to outstanding hotel art collections.
I head for the spa, truly one of the best in the world. Ask for a glass of water in the dedicated Spa Café or in the nearby Spa Library (super, polysyllabic books, and free WiFi) and it comes in a Riedel glass. For any treatment, your robe and slippers exactly match the putty-coloured rough stone walls. There has been a meeting of high net worth individuals’ financial advisors here the last couple of days and I bet they, like me, revelled in the glass-walled pool, and heading up 27 black marble stairs to a treatment room for an amazing La Prairie new look, albeit without violin accompaniment.
Perhaps it is as well that Jean Tinguely is no more – he died in 1991. Everything of his moves. Had he got hold of the spa violinist’s instrument he would have done something weird with it. I first came across his work when having coffee in the café at Bank Julius Baer off Bahnhofstrasse: its entire ceiling was hung with oddities, mostly old bits of twisted metal. As I go out from this beautiful luxury hotel, and back down to the real world. I pass another Tinguely. But Urs Schwarzenbach has so many interests: I also pass a bottle of his Genghis Khan vodka. It might go well with the Dolder’s irresistible home-made chocolates?