loving the langham

I’ve spent so much time waxing rhapsodic about the dizzying heights of the Ritz that I forgot to mention I have since moved on to Langham Place, Mongkok. No slight intended, because this hotel is amazing. Rising 42 stories above the heaving heart of Kowloon it boasts the authentic sights, sounds and shops of old Hong Kong right on its doorstep. (As you’ve been reading about – I hope – for the past week.) And yes, it’s all sleek and modern and smells nice and wears its cheeky monkey on its sleeve, but what sets it apart from inferior chains – hello, W Hotels - is the substance beneath all the style: first and foremost is the X-Team, a handful of the friendliest, best-connected concierges I’ve ever put to the test. Then there’s Chuan Spa, as warm and welcoming as an opium den – from which the decor seems to take some inspiration. Treatments are guided by principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine – Wu Xing, or the Five Elements; Yin and Yang; and Jing Luo, the Meridian System – and it doesn’t get more authentically indulgent as this. The hotel also has one of the most impressive collections of contemporary Chinese art in the world, let alone Asia, including pieces from Wang Guangyi, Yue Minjun, and Jiang Shuo. Comprised of more than 1,500 pieces – some provocative, if not downright controversial –  you can explore highlights of the multi-million dollar collection via an interactive iPad tour narrated by the hotel’s curator. As for food, I don’t think I can sing any more praises for Ming Court than I already have. I’m going to miss it here. (Not to mention Hong Kong.) If the Ritz felt more like a mistress, over the top flashy with legs for days, Langham Place is the wife you’d like to have: smart and sexy, with just the right amount of wrong to keep you coming back for more.

 

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the menil collection

A few blocks away from MFAH, in a quiet residential neighborhood, the Menil Collection anchors a cultural enclave of shaded streets where unassuming bungalows sit side-by-side with art filled chapels, artist pavilions, and outdoor sculpture. It’s the distinctive – and decidedly eclectic – vision of Houston philanthropists John and Dominque de Menil, whose private art collection forms the bulk of the museum. As modernists, the de Menils recognized the formal and spiritual connections between contemporary art and the arts of ancient and indigenous cultures, so while at first it might seem curious to pass through a gallery hung with Surrealists into a room full of carved statuary from Oceania, intellectually it makes perfect sense once considered. What appears at first to be slap dash has actually been meticulously planned. That spirit of intellectual provocation is one of the things I most love about this curious collection. Another is the fact that the de Menils enjoyed close friendships with many of the contemporary artists whose work they collected, including Max Ernst, Jasper Johns, Yves Klein, Rene Magritte, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and Mark Rothko; meaning much of the American postwar Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art and Minimalism hasn’t simply been collected, but commissioned.

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dean gallery: no miracles

In addition to currently hosting a major exhibit entitled Another World:  Dali, Magritte, Miro and the Surrealists, Edinburgh’s Dean Gallery – the contemporary wing of the National Galleries of Scotland -  has an outdoor sculpture park on its great lawn. This piece by Turner-nominated Scottish artist Nathan Coley is particularly striking.


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