I’m spending the next few days at the elegant, art deco Hotel Lutetia in St.-Germain-des-Pres, which I just discovered is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
Opened in December 1910, the Lutetia was the first Art Deco hotel in Paris and has been a backdrop to the 20th century’s history: in the wake of the Liberation, evacuees from some of the concentration camps were situated at the hotel; on the walls of the main gallery, staff wrote out their names, so families and loved ones could come check the walls to see who had made it out alive. On a much lighter note, it’s also been a stomping ground for intellectuals, writers, and celebrities: Josephine Baker, Matisse, Andre Gide, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Picasso all called the hotel home at one point. (Nowadays, keep an eye out for Gerard Depardieu, who regularly frequents the ground floor bar in search of a coffee.)
Art is everywhere at the Lutetia. Just spin through the revolving door to become fully aware of it. While retaining the signature Art Deco style, the hotel works contemporary art into the decor, highlighting commissioned pieces from renowned artists like Philippe Hiquily, Max Le Verrier, Thierry Bisch and Arman. Of particular note is the highly original cigar chest in the shape of woman’s body at the Ernest Bar, the paintings in the “bear cubs” series shown on the hotel’s third floor, as well as a few splendid sculptures adorning the bar. The hotel also boasts the Arman Suite, with musical furniture and African decorations produced by the sculptor himself.
In partnership with Maison Europeenne de la Photographie, the recently refurbished Rotonde Suites have been turned into art galleries, with the works of four contemporary photographers – Elliott Erwitt/United States, Vik Muniz/South America, Keiichi Tahara/Japan and Mimmo Jodice/Europe – on exhibit throughout the year. Each photographer not only chose the particular works to be displayed, they curated the placement of individual prints as well.
Though I must admit what I like best of all is my simple, spare garret suite with twin balconies looking out at the Eiffel Tower.