For more than twenty years the Hilton Anatole has been home to over a thousand rare and unusual treasures from the collections of Trammell and Margaret Crow. One-of-a-kind works of art, many that once graced the royal palaces of kings, emperors, and czars from Japan, China, India, and Southeast Asia—dating back as far as the fifth century BCE—now adorn the hotel’s entryways and embellish its walls. Many of these works are completely accessible to tactile examination. The convention in July will be the third the Anatole has hosted for the NFB, yet many of us have been almost completely oblivious to the art around us. With the help of literature provided by the Hilton Anatole, we now invite you to learn a little about several pieces in one of the largest and most beautiful private art collections in America. On Saturday, June 30; Sunday, July 1; and Monday, July 2, hotel staff members trained to give walking tours of the collection will conduct several tours for interested convention attendees. The convention agenda will provide complete information about times and tour size limits.
Perhaps the newest addition to the collection is a sculpture that we cannot touch, but it seems important for us to know of its existence. In the fall of 2011 the Hilton Anatole’s staff unveiled Nebula—a structure made of ten miles of aircraft cable, 1,780 pulleys, and over 4,500 amber crystals—floating above the redesigned Atrium II space in a wavelike dance. Nebula is a dramatic, slowly moving kinetic structure, organized in a multi-tiered, geometric pattern that fans out almost one hundred feet long and fifty feet wide, according to the hotel’s press release.
The sweeping design of Nebula, a cluster of stars, is the work of world-renowned artist Reuben Margolin. Combining the logic of mathematics with inspiration from wave patterns and the graceful motion of caterpillars, the thirty-nine-year-old San Francisco Bay Area sculptor creates large-scale kinetic sculptures using pulleys, motors, and a wide variety of materials. In 2009, after submitting designs for a kinetic structure competition led by Atrium II’s interior designer, EDG Interior Architecture + Design, Margolin was commissioned by Crow Holdings—owners and operators of Hilton Anatole—to conceptualize and design a dramatic centerpiece for Atrium II, a 31,000-square-foot common area in the hotel lobby. The artwork took approximately seventeen days and a crew of five to suspend it fifty feet above the Atrium II space. Nebula slowly rises and falls in a complex choreography so that it appears to swim or breathe gracefully. The movement is not digital in origin, but rather the result of a mechanism using physics to create complex and fluid shapes.
During past conventions at the Hilton Anatole we have enjoyed fine dining at the Nana Restaurant on the twenty-seventh floor. Unfortunately it will be closed for renovation during our visit this year. It took its name from the classic nude in oils by Marcel Suchorowsky displayed over the bar. Nana was the main character in the 1880 novel of the same name by Emile Zola. Unfortunately the artwork will no longer be on display when the restaurant reopens in September. Another Anatole restaurant that takes its name from a work of art is the Gossip Bar, where a sculpture of the same name is on display. With flowing robes and exotic headdresses, this whimsical life-size trio of figures seems caught up in the delight of sharing a secret. The Gossips was created by contemporary Danish artist Bjorn Wiinblad, known for his imaginative and colorful designs. The Hilton Anatole contains a number of Wiinblad works, including tapestries, stained glass, and lithographs. Wiinblad works in a variety of media and is perhaps best known for his dazzling ceramic and porcelain designs for Rosenthal.
The two life-size elephants outside the Chantilly Ballroom were carved in Thailand in 1983. They stand eight feet tall and weigh three tons each. They were carved from single pieces of 12-foot-in-diameter monkey pod trees by artisans in the Golden Triangle area of Thailand near the Laotian border, famous for its outstanding art. These and four other elephants in the hotel were purchased by the Crow Collection and placed there in honor of the 1984 Republican National Convention, hosted by the Hilton Anatole.
For some years the hotel has displayed two sections of the Berlin Wall, which it has just moved indoors. Built in 1961 at the height of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall stood for nearly 30 years as a hated symbol of repression and fear. Until 1990 the wall cut through 192 city streets, blocking East Berlin and East Germany from the West. By 1991, after reunification, the wall almost completely vanished. A few larger segments were officially donated or sold. The two segments owned by the Crow Collection, each twelve feet high and four feet wide, feature images and text painted by German artist Jurgen Grope, known as “Indiano.”
A number of sculptures are installed on the grounds of the hotel. Children at Play is a set of eight bronze figures charmingly sculpted by David Cargill in 1983. They seem to invite passersby to take to the grass and join their game. Cargill, a contemporary sculptor based in Beaumont, Texas, is known for his elegant and understated treatment of religious and secular themes.
In Fishing a grandfather and his grandson share an afternoon together, fishing the pond of the Anatole Park. J. Seward Johnson Jr., a Johnson & Johnson heir, began focusing his attention on sculpture in 1968 after a successful career painting impressionistic landscapes. Since then more than two hundred of Johnson’s life-size cast bronze figures have been featured in collections throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia.
More than forty pieces of Wedgwood porcelain enhance the foyer of the Wedgwood Room. Josiah Wedgwood was an eighteenth-century English potter, whose works are among the finest examples of ceramic art. During his long career Wedgwood developed revolutionary ceramic materials, notably basalt and Jasperware. The rarest piece in the collection is the 1885 covered vase in blue and white Jasperware. Nearly five feet tall, this monumental object is the largest recorded Wedgwood Jasperware vase in the world. Unfortunately these pieces are displayed behind glass.
A number of Asian works of art are scattered throughout the public areas of the hotel. A spectacular plate in hand-painted gold and enamel on a porcelain body is the work of artist Su Wen Sheng. It was created at the Quanfu Ceramic Factory in China’s Guangdong Province. This beautiful monumental work—measuring more than seven feet in diameter and weighing 650 pounds—is one of the largest porcelain creations in the world. In a hallway niche, an elegant female deity on a lion, also from China, is carved from luminous white sandstone.
The Hilton Anatole collection includes a number of Buddhas. One is a six-foot statue depicting a Buddha sitting on the cosmic lotus, a symbol of mercy and compassion. The Buddha’s hands are held in dhyana mudra, the meditation posture. The bronze Laughing Buddha known as PuTai, clutching his prayer beads and a cloth bag of gold, embodies the ideals of happiness, good luck, and plenitude, and dates from the seventeenth or eighteenth century.
This brief survey of the art on display at the Hilton Anatole is meant only to whet your curiosity to learn more about the collection and to get your hands on as much of it as possible during convention.