Winston Hotel, Amsterdam (2000)

Report on guest-room/art installations including those by Pepe Smit, Lisa Holden, Gerda Hahn, Jan van der Ploeg, Aldert Mantje and Andre Mesman.

R.J. Preece
artdesigncafé - design | 15 September 2009
This report first appeared in Sculpture magazine, 19(10), page 14 in 2000.

Winston Hotel, Amsterdam

How many art commissions provide views of drunk and stoned English louts, drug dealers chanting “ecstasy, cocaine, charlie,” a multitude of red neon-glowing prostitute chambers, leather-clad patrons piling into the “Cockring,” while an Old World church bell rings hourly? There are several at the Winston Hotel, set strategically in Europe’s “circus”— Amsterdam’s notorious Red Light District. Four new installations/hotel rooms were recently unveiled by Pepe Smit, Lisa Holden, Gerda Hahn, and Ernst Voss.

Pepe Smit’s Guest Room (1999) featured mismatched wallpaper overlaid with images of the artist dressed up and posing as members of an archetypal nuclear family. A bright red telephone plays bat cave imagery off against the prostitute stalls outside and contrasts with the comfort of home. Picking up the receiver, guests can’t call out, but can hear concerned mothers speaking monologues in several European languages.

Nearby in Miss Lilly’s Suite (1999), British-born, Netherlands-resident Lisa Holden saturated the room with the essence of her alter ego “Miss Lilly”— lace curtains and bedspread, a naked gold Grecian figurine draped in ivy, a mock Louis XIV mirror flanked by plastic flowers, and two framed Monet posters. Holden’s purpose is to “confront aspirations, desires, and insecurities”— a goal furthered by the high camp slogan (adapted from a Simply Red song) painted on the wall, “All I’ve ever wanted is to know that you’re not faking,” which specifically targets the fears of those packs of English louts stumbling by outside.

Meanwhile, Amsterdam-based Gerda Hahn took Polaroid snapshots from her stay at the Winston, simulating a vacation and asking various people she interacted with to photograph her. Without witnesses, life could just as well be a lie refers to tourist souvenir photographs. In another room, Ernst Voss offered repeated imagery of an iconic man, in some ways comparable to Smit’s approach to image distribution. Previously designed rooms include Jan van der Ploeg’s Grip Room with minimalistic painting and Hugo Kaagmann’s Heineken Room, which comments on its corporate sponsor.

Organized by “indoor land art” artists Aldert Mantje and Andre Mesman, the Winston program offers artists opportunities to experiment with the installation/hotel room fusion. According to Mesman, they create “a platform for artists not in the high-art scene to get exposure for their art.” The Winston offers technical assistance, money for materials, and an unspecified amount of free accommodation.