In Chicago, an Art Curator Brings a Feeling of Home to a New Hotel

citizenM hotel in downtown Chicago. Photos courtesy citizenM


January 13, 2023

Floor Haverkamp is a curator and the art collection manager for citizenM Hotels. I spoke with Floor upon the opening of citizenM Hotel Chicago.

Chris Force: So, how does one end up as the curator for a global hotel?

Floor Haverkamp: I studied art history in the Netherlands and then worked for a 17-century old masters art dealer. After that I started working for an art fair and then at foam, a photography museum in Amsterdam where I met the founder of citizenM, Rattan Chadha, and his curator Liesbeth Williams. I was trying to sell the hotel on collaborating with photographers. They asked me to help out with artworks in the rooms, and that’s how the collaboration started. At first there were eight hotels; now there are 24, with many in development.

In the beginning I was assisting Liesbeth with the KTRC collection; that is Rattan Chadha’s private collection. When Liesbeth retired that left me and one other curator based in London, Henry Relph.

The lobby at citizenMChicago. “It gives a really homey feel, like a welcomer, a bit like things you collect from your travels. We don’t have name tags or descriptions because our whole idea is to feel like you are at home not at a museum. That’s why we have a citizenM app where you can scroll through all the artwork and descriptions,” says Floor.

Where does your research process start when looking for new artworks?

We visit a lot of exhibitions and art fairs, museums for reference, online, and through relationships with galleries. Henry works by Instagram a lot.

Do you work with any favorite galleries?

There are so many Amsterdam-based galleries, but there’s not one specific gallery I visit most. I’m also in touch directly with artists a lot.

“The Daniel van Straalen is a neon artwork by a Dutch artist we bought at an art fair and coincidently had exactly same shape as the location that needed something special for at the bar. He’s very inspired by the internet and questions authenticity and uses memes for his art. It’s a nice talking point while you are at the bar,” says Floor.

How did you begin the art curation process for the citizenM Chicago hotel?

It starts by collaborating with the project team, the interior architects, and the creative director at Concrete, an architect’s bureau based in Amsterdam that designed the actual hotel. They also determine where the bespoke art is going to get installed.

Then we start by asking, “Where is the artwork going?” and “What are we looking for in that particular location?” It starts with a narrative around what we would like to tell about that specific hotel. That starts years in advance in a concept phase and ends on a product level when the styling team does their search for the actual objects to place in the hotels.

We always try to look for artists who have a link to that specific city to add a bit of locality to the hotel. Chicago started with a huge terrace—it was our largest commission opportunity of all the hotels so far. We were looking for an artist who could cover the terrace, who had experience with larger projects, and who had a connection to Chicago. That’s how we came up with Nina Chanel Abney.

We also have a citizenM creative board. Together we select the final art pieces. The process starts years in advance.

The terrace at citizenM hotel in Chicago with a mural by Chicago-based artist Nina Chanel Abney.

What were some of the creative concepts you began with for the citizenM Chicago hotel?

It was inspired by The Bean (“Cloud Gate” by Anish Kapoor) because it’s such a landmark in Chicago. We were thinking “reflection,” “distortion of the grid,” and “curvy.” Everything in a hotel is almost always rigid so we tried to be more curvy, breaking reality.

When we began commissioning artists we tried to be as open as possible. We want them to work with a blank canvas to see what they come up with.

“In Chicago we collaborated with Art Lifting. It’s such an interesting initiative to give artists who are homeless or disabled the opportunity to have their art in our rooms,” says Floor. Artwork by Kenneth Williams

“The Gideon Ruben is a print, an editioned work. We do a mix of editioned pieces and unique pieces,” says Floor. Print by Gideon Rubin

“The lobby pieces are all acquired by the founder of the hotel, Mr. Chaddha, that he bought over the past 20 years. They are from artists around the world and a mix of established artists.” Painting by Muntean & Rosenblum

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