Local art is central to the new Logan hotel on the Ben Franklin Parkway, one of 20 properties in Hilton’s “Curio Collection” managed by Denver-based Sage Hospitality.
Gone are the pastels and Tuscan-style furniture of the Four Seasons Philadelphia, though architecturally, the bones are all the same. But after the six-month lobby renovation, you can’t miss the more than 1,800 original works scattered throughout the lobby, the elevator vestibules and the guestrooms.
And there’s serious thought behind the art. Reading the provided explanations, it’s obvious the people who put together the collection really get Philly, both past and present.
For example, instead of just using the tired trope “City of Firsts,” the hotel’s abstract introducing the collection describes Philadelphia as “a place of innovative ideas.” Another blurb contains this apt take on the current zeitgeist: “As the city reimagines itself as a hub for culture and innovation, the grit that characterized its inhabitants prevails.”
Sure, some facts appear cherry-picked in the interest of artistic conceit. (Is Pennsylvania the “renowned quilt capital of the world”? Maybe Lancaster County, but a quick Googling shows it’s much more often associated with Paducah, Ky., home to the National Quilt Museum.) But this isn’t a museum, it’s a hotel.
Only two floors of the 390-room hotel are open so far, so there will be even more art to seek out as additional levels and facilities come online, but here are some of the most striking pieces. If you’re walking by or dining at the on-site Urban Farmer steakhouse (also a 180-degree switch from what used to be Fountain restaurant), take a minute to check them out for yourself.
The Philadelphia Elite Silhouettes
Many of the larger works were produced by the Philadelphia Traction Company, an artists co-op in West Philly, including the very first piece you see at the hotel’s main entrance. In collaboration with the Philadelphia Historical Society, the artists created a “chandelier” comprised of more than 300 portraits of famous or important Philadelphians.
Figures range from the obvious (Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, Joe Frazier) to the less-well-known, like Dorothy Harrison Eustis, who first thought up the seeing-eye dog, and John Fryer, a psychologist and gay rights activist credited with convincing the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.
The shape of the installation is a figure eight, which the background description says is a tip to “Pennsylvania’s early history as one of the eight original United States colonies.” (Er, Pa. was chronologically the 12th colony founded. However, in Ben Franklin’s famous “Join or Die” sketch, there were only eight colonies represented, and Pa. was one of them.)
Join or Die
Franklin’s cartoon itself comes to three-dimensional life in this bronze sculpture in the first-floor elevator foyer.
It’s hard to capture in photos the alluring nature of the piece, also by Traction Company, but the serpent’s curving, writhing segments grab the eye and make you want to reach out and touch them. (Disclaimer: They probably don’t want you to do that.)
Hombre de Hierro
It’s can’t be easy to make a metal sculpture evoke as many emotions as this piece by PAFA grad Miguel Antonio Horn. The striking, 7½-foot humanoid whose title translates as “Man of Iron” welcomes guests to the lobby projecting a combination of strength, humility, pride, pensiveness and determination. All that in a layered topographical construction of plasma-cut steel plates.
Given prime space in the lounge between the lobby bar and Urban Farmer restaurant is this large collaborative effort from Traction Company.
An homage to Boathouse Row, each wrought-iron “person” in the lineup was hand-crafted by a different individual, much like a crew team must pull together to speed across the water.
Just outside the elevator on each floor hangs a piece from the Grace Kelly series, paying tribute to the beauty and grace of the Philadelphia-born actress and Princess of Monaco. This painting, on Floor 2, casts her silhouette in blue ombre, gazing out at a glowing vista of gold.
In many Philly hotel rooms, the artwork you’ll usually find is (sometimes artistic) renderings of the Liberty Bell, City Hall, Ben Franklin Bridge, etc. Not at the Logan. Above the desks are various images by photographer Hope Kahn, all starkly geometric representations of Longwood Gardens.
Rider in the Snow
Above the bed is a Rorschach-like print by Downingtown’s Leander Fontaine. Can you guess what those energetic strokes of ink represent? Maybe not, but once you know you can see it: A horse and rider in motion.
It’s meant to be a member of the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry, the volunteer force that assembled at the First Continental Congress at Carpenters’ Hall. The troop is still active today — if you’ve been to an event at the 23rd Street Armory, you’ve seen their headquarters — and is considered the oldest mounted military unit (and possibly oldest unit of any kind) in continuous service to the Republic.