A New Edward Hopper-Themed Motel Room Allows You to Experience All the Alienation of the Artist’s Classic Paintings

You can spend the night in this painting, courtesy of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Edward Hopper, Western Motel (1957). Yale University Art Gallery. © 2019 Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper/ARS.
Edward Hopper, Western Motel (1957). Yale University Art Gallery. © 2019 Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper/ARS.

As museums all over the world vie for the attention—and dollars—of visitors, they are increasingly turning to experience-based promotions. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is no exception.

This October, the institution will host a range of experiences based on the coinciding exhibition “Edward Hopper and the American Hotel“—including the chance to stay at the museum in a three-dimensional recreation of the room in his painting, Western Motel (1965).

The exhibition will present more than 60 works by Hopper drawn from public and private collections that explore his interest in hotels, motels, and other hospitality sites. One of the pictures, House at Dark (1935), was purchased by the VFMA in 1953, the year he served as a juror for the museum’s biennial. (He also served as vice chairman of the biennial exhibition in 1938.)

House at Dark will be on display along with drawings, watercolors, and paintings, plus a cache of postcards and diary entries by his wife, the artist Josephine Hopper, who kept mementos from the couple’s travels throughout the United States. The show also features 35 works by John Singer Sargent, Charles Demuth, Reginald Marsh, Cindy Sherman, and Ed Ruscha.

Edward Hopper, <i>Hotel Lobby</i> (1943). Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields. Josephine Hopper/ARS.

Edward Hopper, Hotel Lobby (1943). Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields. Josephine Hopper/ARS.

But most unconventionally, the museum will recreate Western Motel in 3D, and allow visitors not only the opportunity to walk into the scene, but also to spend a night in it as guests.

Hopper is best known for creating alienating scenes of modern life, often depicting just one or two people who do not interact with one another. So whether visitors will really want to pay for such an experience remains to be seen. But the museum is also offering other, more conventional options to coincide with the show, such as a dinner at the museum restaurant and guided tours with the show’s curator.

Details on the packages related to the “Hopper Hotel Experience,” as it has been named, will be made available as the exhibition date draws near. In the meantime, the museum says the show “represents the first investigation of the artist’s canonical images of hotels, motels, and other hospitality settings.”

Edward Hopper and the American Hotel” is on view at the VMFA from October 26, 2019–February 23, 2020, and will then travel to the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields.


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