W Hotel Takes the Art Bar Concept to New Heights

Studio, a new New York bar and lounge painted by Spanish-American artist Domingo Zapata. Photo: Gerber Group.

The art gallery often moonlights as a bar during openings, but Studio, a new lounge in the basement of the Union Square location of New York’s W Hotel, takes the art bar hybrid to its platonic form. As reported by Fox News, Spanish-American artist Domingo Zapata transformed the subterranean space into an Alice in Wonderland–style fantasy.

Described as “an artist-inspired lounge concept,” Studio, the brainchild of owner Scott Gerber, of the Gerber Group, takes the place of the short-lived Lilium, which had an art angle of its own, displaying video art, rather than sporting events, on the flat-screen TV behind the bar. Gerber has opened no fewer than 18 nightlife venues since 1991, but Studio is the first to fully embrace his appreciation of contemporary art.

Zapata, whose lavish home and studio is blocks from the hotel, spent two weeks painting the space before its September opening. Descending into Studio is meant to evoke Alice’s fall down the rabbit hole, with Alice-inspired murals in both the entryway and along the perimeter of the room. The upholstery is in rich, red velvet, which heightens the glamorous, art-infused setting for enjoying, food, drinks, and live music. Even the bathrooms have been transformed by Zapata.

At the bar, the artist has done his best to recreate the trappings of his studio—part of his incentive for getting involved was to find a new place to host the celebrity-studded parties he had previously thrown at his home.

“Domingo is the kind of guy you want to hang out with,” Gerber told Crain’s New York, which claims that Zapata is being called “the new Andy Warhol,” and will welcome the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Johnny Depp to Studio.

For his portion of the collaboration, Gerber has brought to the table an assortment of fine wines and classic cocktails, as well as a “create-your-own” gin and tonic menu, Spanish-influenced drinks, and an assortment of small plates. Although it may sound super-swanky, Gerber assured Fox that “we’re not about that red velvet rope at all,” and that interested guests don’t need reservations to stop by.

Studio isn’t the only new New York hotspot that has gotten the floor-to-ceiling treatment from a local artist. Kitty’s Canteen, the latest offering from Richard Kimmel, owner of sexy late-night theater the Box, features feline-themed murals from Molly Crabapple painted on nearly every surface of the cozy Jewish soul-food lounge, including over 30 feet of $1,000-a-yard golden de Gournay wallpaper.

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