There’s a new—well, expanded—hotel in town. The Drake recently opened its five-storey Modern Wing to guests and, quite frankly, we’re floored. The new adjoining wing is a wonder of architecture, interior design, art and, of course, top-notch accommodations. From the cosy and colourful lobby (complete with an intimate street-front bar) to stunning original artwork throughout (you won’t be able to peel your eyes away from these pieces), we can’t wait to stay in this “suite” space. Of course, the “old” Drake is still around, too, with its many beloved amenities. Talk about a sensational stay! We chatted with the Drake’s curator, Ashley Mulvihill, of Ninth Editions, to find out more about the artful Modern Wing. —Noa Nichol
Hi Ashley! What was your role in the design of the Drake’s Modern Wing?
I was responsible for curating the art. My role is to come in closer to the end of the process and look at which spaces require art or even propose ideas for where we could place art/an installation. With the incredible amount of attention paid to every element of the design, it was important to us in the selection process to programme art that was in dialogue with space around it. Seeing all the layers come together has been very impressive.
How did you locate/choose the artists? How many artists are involved, who are they?
A lot of the curatorial process is about research, digging deep to find artwork that really excites you, and establishing priorities for the collection. We wanted the art to be unexpected, but approachable, and showcase a diverse group of artists and mediums. Our first meeting for the Modern Wing was just under three years ago, so it was a gradual evolution to reach our final group of 16 artists (with a few curve balls due to the pandemic!). I am incredibly grateful to have worked with such a stellar group of artists including Stephanie Temma Hier, Malik McKoy, Miranda Forrester, Melanie Luna, Saimaiyu Akesuk, Angela Aula, Oscar Flores, Micah Lexier, Owen Marshall, Sarah Alinia Ziazi, Theresa Himmer, Toko Hosoya, Raoul Olou, Luke Van H, Jasmine Cardenas, and Greg Ito on the Modern Wing.
Was there an overall theme or scheme you were working with/toward for the Modern Wing?
Yes, we created two themes, one for the lobby and one for the rooms, to create a distinction between the public and private spaces. For the lobby exhibition, titled ‘While We’re Here’, the works were chosen to invite questions and encourage conversation about any element of the work whether it be material, artist, approach, or theme. The works are non-traditional, but every piece has something recognizable or familiar. Even if you don’t know the first thing about art, there’s something to draw you in and make you consider what you’re looking at. In the rooms the art is a continuation on the theme of nostalgia, a pillar of The Drake’s opening in 2004. We worked with local, emerging artists who each had their own floor of suites, so that every room has original work and no two are the same. There is printed take-away material in the lobby, as well as didactics next to every artwork, so that you can read about the artist and their artwork, should you wish to learn more.
Will the art change or rotate?
The artworks in the rooms are permanent, but the lobby exhibition is on a two-year exhibition schedule. Art is such an impactful way to transform the space and the commission process with artists is very rewarding.
What do you hope guests get out of the artworks presented throughout the Modern Wing?
I hope that it’s a memorable experience, that the art inspires our guests to think, even for a moment, about the creator and creative process. Art can often get categorized into a ‘decorative’ category and it can be so much more. It can be challenging and rewarding, there is real value in championing artists who move the needle forward in our society. I think that anything that encourages us to slow down and consider the world around us can help us be more present; something I am certainly always reminding myself to do!
Do you have a favourite piece?
When my four-year-old is asked what her favourite colour is she replies, ‘rainbow’. So, I’ll follow suit and say, all of them! Every piece is uniquely special, I’m truly so thrilled with each and every one and immensely grateful to the artists for sharing their work with us.