The Lord Baltimore Hotel
20 W. Baltimore Street
For anyone who remembers its time as a boring old Radisson, entering the new Lord Baltimore Hotel is a wow. The huge lobby with its opulently decorated ceiling has been restored to the grandeur of its Art Deco glory years. The 500-seat ballroom, in soft ivory and grey, showcases original 1928 murals of Baltimore scenes. The sleek guest rooms have signature linens emblazoned with the legendary “Lord Baltimore Hotel.” There’s a good French restaurant, too. But perhaps the most interesting way the Lord Baltimore is distinguishing itself from the competition — which includes the neighboring Kimpton Hotel Monoco — is with its art collection.
When Radisson sold the 440-room hotel to the Rubell Hotels group in March 2013 for $10 million, the Lord Baltimore became a beneficiary of the Rubell Family Collection, an internationally renowned contemporary art collection of enormous size and value. Since 1964, when Don and Mera Rubell bought their first drawings by storefront artists on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, they have amassed over 6,000 works by artists including Jeff Koons, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Cindy Sherman and Paul McCarthy. The bulk of the collection is housed in a 45,000 square foot exhibition space in Miami which is open to the public.
Works from the Rubell Family Collection will be displayed on the walls of the Lord Baltimore Hotel on a rotating basis. Specially commissioned original artworks hang on the wall of every guest room, and a fun “Baltimore Google Art” project by Jason Rubell decorates the rooms and hallways. Art books and exhibition catalogs from the Rubell Family Collection are scattered on tables throughout the hotel. The gift shop is an uptown outpost of the Visionary Arts Museum’s Sideshow, with the same kitsch/chic aesthetic, and the LB Tavern off the lobby (which opens at 4pm for cocktails) features photographs by Candida Hofer on a library theme.
And it’s not just about the stuff. The Rubells are demonstrating their commitment to the Baltimore art scene with action, much as they have done in other areas they feel have cultural potential — first in Miami, and then southwest Washington D.C., where their Skyline Capitol Hotel has become a beacon for contemporary art events, including the annual E(merge) new artist show. And so, coming in May 27 to the Lord Baltimore Hotel, there’s an Artist’s Talk with Mera Rubell and “post-black” artist Rashid Johnson, sponsored by Bmore Art (to purchase tickets, click here…our friends at BmoreArt tell us that tickets must be purchased in advance and they’ve sold about half so far). In August, Baltimore Fashion Week is set to happen here, and other style and art-related events are planned.
Last fall, Mera Rubell was in Baltimore for an art-shopping marathon, visiting 37 studios in 36 hours, scouring the city for work by Baltimore artists to exhibit at a show in Washington D.C. to benefit the Washington Project For the Arts. During her visit, she enthused, “I had a hunch that Baltimore was special, but after these 34+ hours, it is very clear that Baltimore is the most dynamic city I have come to in America, at this moment in time – and you know I travel everywhere. It’s so cool because it’s so unpretentious.” Gulp.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not, Mera’s husband Donald is the brother of Steve Rubell – the 1980’s New York impresario who, with his (business) partner Ian Schrager, owned the wildly successful nightclubs Studio 54 and Palladium, which were known for their art displays and installations as well as celebrity and drug scandals. Rubell and Schrager went to jail for tax evasion in 1980, served time, and came out a year later to found the Morgan, the Royalton, and the Paramount hotels in Manhattan. The two are often credited with creating the boutique hotel concept, including trends like lobby socializing.
After Steve’s death in 1989, the Rubells sold his 50 percent share in the hotels to Ian Schrager and moved to Miami, where in 1993 they bought their first hotel, the Albion. Other hotels in the group have come and gone, but currently the Rubells own the Lord Baltimore, the Skyline Capitol and the Albion hotels.
Although it bears many of the hallmarks of a luxury hotel, the Lord Baltimore is in fact, mid-range pricewise, with rooms starting at $149 (as of this writing). Within easy distance to the Hippodrome, the Baltimore Convention Center, the Baltimore Arena and both Oriole and Ravens stadiums, the Lord Baltimore’s location is a no-brainer for visitors whose agenda is directed downtown, rather than Harbor East. Reception rooms on the top floor open out to a rooftop deck, with stunning views of the city. And for visiting dignitaries, there are four penthouse suites, bigger than most people’s houses. Even the six Lord Baltimores of history, whose portraits preside over the hotels majestic lobby, would be impressed.
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