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Art-Centric, Playful, Red Glamour: The Vagabond Club Singapore
Where other hotels merely have art on their walls, The Vagabond Club Singapore adorns its spaces with artworks plus two life-size elephants, a rhino, a baboon and not one, but six banyan trees!
Step into the 41-room luxury boutique hotel’s lobby and you’ll be greeted by a golden brass banyan tree and a sparkly brass rhino which doubles as a reception desk. Look to your left and a gold elephant appears to spring out from the wall. Walk past the lift and you’ll discover another twin elephant and both are seemingly hoisting up the lift.
These eye-catching sculptures are just a few of the decadent and playful pieces that award-winning French architect and interior designer Jacques Garcia (creative genius of Paris’ Hotel Costes and New York’s Nomad), whose design philosophy is “all things in excess”, has scattered throughout the hotel, against a backdrop of luxe crimson furnishings inspired by glamourous Parisian salons of yesteryears.
The 3-year-old hotel, housed within eight 1950 Art Deco heritage shophouses with original red shutters, is located close to the heritage precincts of Kampong Glam and Little India.
Part of the Marriott International family under the prestigious Tribute Portfolio brand, the hotel emerged as Singapore’s No. 5 Luxury Hotel, No. 6 Top Hotel and No. 8 Best Service Hotel in the 2018 TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards.
4 Things We ♥ About The Hotel
1. Amazing Art Pieces & Sculptures
The hotel’s art collection is impressive and if, like us, you want to hear the stories behind the pieces that have captured your attention, sign up for the hotel’s complimentary art tour.
We discovered that the rhino and banyan trees were crafted by Rajasthan’s Allahbuksh family who have been making armoury for the Rajasthan royal families for generations. The rhino took eight months to make and weighs more than an actual rhino of the same size, while each leaf of the banyan trees was hand-hammered by some 100 people from 15 villages in Rajasthan.
The lifelike elephants, one of Garcia’s favourite animals, are the handiwork of French sculptor Franck Le Ray, who also happens to be one of Garcia’s favourite artists.
Elephant heads also show up on the ends of some arm rests while their legs hold up tables in the Salon.
Le Ray also created Bar Vagabond’s baboon sculpture, named “La Mona” (Spanish for “female monkey”) by the bar’s first bartender who is a Mexican native.
Besides being the Executive Club Lounge, the Salon is also like a mini art museum with its art wall filled with a captivating selection of originals, prints and reproductions hand-picked by British animation artist Peter Millard.
The piece that intrigued us most was the White Feather photo of Kenyan model Giannina Oteto covering her right eye with a white feather. Shot by American photographer Gregory Prescott, the photo graces one of walls of the Salon alongside a captivating collection of originals, prints and reproductions hand-picked by British artist Peter Millard.
White Feather (2014) by Gregory Prescott
We were also fascinated with Michel Platnic’s After ‘Three Studies for Portrait of Lucien Freud, 1969’ (2013) video-art installation found on the wall of the Salon powder room. Upon closer inspection, we realised that they are not three paintings but short video loops of three men who have been painted and filmed.
After ‘Three Studies for Portrait of Lucien Freud, 1969’ (2013) by Michel Platnic
Between Bar Vagabond and the Salon powder room is perhaps the hotel’s most controversial artwork – a photo of Argentinian artist Leon Ferrari’s 1965 Western Christian Civilization (La Civilización Occidental y Cristiana) sculpture which shows the crucified Christ sculpture on a US Air Force bomber. It was Ferrari’s way of protesting the Vietnam War.
We also spotted a photo of Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in a scene from Pretty Woman close to an original black and gold folding screen that was used in the 1990 movie which owners Satinder Garcha and Harpreet Bedi (both passionate art lovers, of course) purchased at an auction.
As the hotel has an Artist in Residence programme, which sees it hosting artists, writers, poets and musicians from all over the world from a weekend to two weeks, art lovers can look forward to rubbing shoulders with some of the world’s most creative minds.
2. Artistic, Mermerising Experience In The Lift
We find ourselves taking the lifts pretty often and wishing that the ride could be longer as we can’t get enough of the eye-popping video collages created by Italian artist Marco Brambilla in 2010.
The video is made up of about 400 different film clips from blockbusters and cult movies like Stars Wars, Ben-Hur, Interview with the Vampire and Little Shop of Horrors, set to Sergei Prokofiev’s haunting “Dance of the Knights” from the ballet Romeo and Juliet.
Moving from past to future, Brambilla wanted to represent the history of humankind through human conflicts across time through the moving montage which is named Evolution (Megaplex).
3. Art-Filled, Swanky Rooms
With so much sensory stimulation around the hotel, we were delighted to retreat to our Classic Room on the second floor overlooking Syed Alwi Road.
The first thing that caught our eyes were the photos above the bed which were taken by Garcha, an avid photographer, on his many travels, which we thought was a great personal touch. In one of the rooms, there is a photo of one of his daughters and in others, there are photos of him playing polo.
We also love the retro push-button phone and the vintage-style Roberts radio dressed in a hand-sewn leather case.
The room features the familiar red colour palette, dark wood floors and attractive floral motif wooden screens which matches the lovely red-themed, paisley-inspired packaging of the ETRO Milano bath amenities.
The Deluxe Executive Club Rooms feature separate work spaces complete with hardwood mahogany writing desks.
Courtyard Executive Club Room
As its name suggests, Courtyard Executive Club Rooms offer access to an outdoor courtyard (albeit a shared one), while the Junior Executive Club Suites have skylights, hardwood mahogany writing desks and spacious seating areas.
Junior Executive Club Suite
Not only does the Art Executive Club Suite display a lot more art pieces in its space; it is also the only room with a kitchenette.
Of course, nothing beats the one and only Vagabond Executive Club Suite, the only room in the hotel bearing the creative fingerprints of Garcia. This lavish and art-filled suite has a separate living area, a pull-out sofa bed and a freestanding bathtub.
Vagabond Executive Club Suite
All rooms come with Nespresso machines; minibars stocked with Marou chocolates, Scottish shortbread, coconut juice, soda water, beers and spirits; and king-sized beds with Rosewood mattresses overlaid with 400 thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets.
4. The Whiskey Library’s Impressive Collection
Whiskey connoisseurs we are not, but we can see (literally) why the decadent Whiskey Library, nestled within the Salon, would be a magnet for lovers of the liquid gold.
Each of the over 1,000 bottles (mostly single cask and limited-edition) hail from the finest distilleries in Scotland, Ireland, Japan, US and other whiskey-producing countries around the world, and take pride of place in hand-crafted vitrines.
If we were whiskey fans, we’d sign up for the membership programme ($3,000 annual membership fee) to enjoy perks such as 10-room nights at the hotel, a personal locker (it can hold up to 15 bottles) opened with a gilded and red tasselled key in a wood-crafted armoire, special prices on whiskies, the option to bring and store a bottle of your own whiskey for every two bottles purchased, reserved seats at The Whiskey Library events and 24-hour access to the Vagabond Gym.
As no library would be complete without books, you’ll find a selection of coffee table books on art, design, architecture, travel, fashion and even biographies of prominent personalities on the tables of The Whiskey Library.
Rates start from $275++ for a Classic Room.
All rooms except Classic Rooms come with complimentary breakfast and complimentary Executive Club Lounge access which offers guests free bites from 11am to 4pm; complimentary hors d’oeuvres plue free-flow of wines and spirits from 4.30pm to 6.30pm; as well as free Wi-Fi.
Photos courtesy of The Vagabond Club Singapore & Chris Wee