ENTERPRISING COLLECTORS ARE CREATING LUXURIOUS LOCATIONS WHERE LOVERS OF ART, ARCHITECTURE, WINE, AND FINE FOOD CAN EXPERIENCE THEM ALL
People who love art usually enjoy the other finer things in life, such as good food, wine, picturesque landscapes, and elegant architecture. Now it is increasingly possible to enjoy these pleasures all at once. Across the world, owners of historic buildings and vineyards are boosting their potential as tourism destinations by using them as a backdrop for their art collections. From wineries in Chile, Tuscany, and California, to castles in Ireland and Italy, a former monastery in Croatia and a coaching inn in Scotland, they have created immersive spaces where a range of cultural and culinary offerings meet in beautiful surroundings. Some provide luxury accommodation and spas, others are the perfect spot for a day trip. All eight are a feast for the senses.
THE FIFE ARMS, SCOTLAND
Hidden in the Scottish Highlands in Braemar, close to the Balmoral Estate—which was bought by Queen Victoria in 1852 and is beloved by the British royal family—the 46 sumptuously decorated bedrooms and suites of this 19th-century coaching inn are inspired by local places and famous visitors to the town. Among them were novelist, poet, and essayist Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote parts of Treasure Island while on holiday in Braemar, and fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, who
is now commemorated in the art deco Elsa’s cocktail bar.
The Fife Arms belongs to the art dealers and philanthropists Iwan and Manuela Wirth, co-founders of the international gallery Hauser & Wirth. The hotel incorporates 14,000 antiques and artworks, ranging from the 16th century to modern masterpieces and contemporary commissions. There is a self-playing Steinway piano decorated by Mark Bradford, portraits by Picasso and Lucian Freud, photographs by Man Ray and Hans Bellmer, and a ceiling painted by Zhang Enli. The main restaurant is the Clunie Dining Room, which features a mural by the Argentinian artist Guillermo Kuitca that was inspired by the local landscape. thefifearms.com
VIK, CHILE AND URUGUAY
Norwegian financier, investor and art collector Alexander Vik and his wife Carrie founded their 11,000-acre Chilean winery, Viña Vik, in central Chile in 2004. Guests can enjoy award-winning wines while dining on a seasonal organic menu devised by executive chef Rodrigo Acuña Bravo.
A visit to the vineyard and adjacent hotel, Vik Chile, involves an extensive encounter with art. The 22 rooms and seven glass-walled bungalows were each designed in collaboration with architect Marcelo Daglio, enabling guests to stay in an immersive artwork while enjoying 360-degree panoramic views of the spectacular landscape. The futuristic winery building was designed by the Chilean-Croatian architect Smiljan Radic, who designed the 2014 Serpentine Pavilion in London, and the couple’s art collection is spread throughout the building. Works include paintings by Roberto Matta, a light work by James Turrell, and a diptych by Anselm Kiefer.
There are three other Vik hotels on the Atlantic coast of Uruguay, in José Ignacio near Punta del Este: Estancia Vik, Playa Vik, and Bahia Vik. vikwine.com
CASTELLO DI AMA, ITALY
A visit to the Castello di Ama vineyard, between Siena and Florence in the Chianti region of Italy, is a sensory feast. Since 1999, the estate’s proprietors, Lorenza Sebasti and Marco Pallanti, have commissioned sculptures and installations as an offering of thanks to the land and its spirit, which also infuses the philosophy of their wine-making. Artists who have made works include Michelangelo Pistoletto, Daniel Buren, Giulio Paolini, Anish Kapoor, Carlos Garaicoa, Cristina Iglesias, Louise Bourgeois, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Chen Zhen, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Lee Ufan, and Roni Horn.
The latest work to be unveiled is a garden installation by Jenny Holzer, which features heavily scented helichrysum flowers and excerpts of poetry by Patrizia Cavalli and WS Merwin.
There are five bedrooms in the 18th-century manor house, allowing guests to stay and experience the sculptures at different times of the day in different light. The main restaurant is headed by the family’s personal chef. castellodiama.com
LOPUD 1483, CROATIA
The history of this former Franciscan monastery on the small island of Lopud, just off the coast of Dubrovnik, is a little hazy. It was built in 1483, but many of its records were lost in the massive earthquake that hit the area in 1667, which largely destroyed the city. The monastery fell into disuse, and while there was still a functioning church on the site in the 1990s, the surrounding buildings were becoming increasingly dilapidated, a situation highlighted by the World Monuments Fund in 1996.
The following year, the collector and philanthropist Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza began what would become a 20-year project to restore the monastery buildings. The 13 monks’ cells have been sympathetically transformed into five suites that fuse ancient and modern. Traditional plaster walls and woodwork are combined with handmade furniture by the Italian designer Paola Lenti and carefully curated works from Thyssen-Bornemisza’s extensive TBA21 contemporary art collection.
Lopud 1483 offers a variety of locations that can be tailored to every taste, from
private gatherings to high-profile events, as well as seminars, performances, and concerts. lopud1483.com
LISMORE CASTLE, REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
The Anglo-Norman Castle was built in County Waterford in 1185, on the site of a seventh-century monastery within sight of the imposing Knockmealdown Mountains. In the late-16th century the statesman and adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh bought the castle, but had to sell it after he was imprisoned for high treason in 1602. It later became the Irish home of the dukes of Devonshire, who acquired it in the mid-18th century. William Cavendish, the sixth duke, commissioned the Gothic revival architect Augustus Pugin to add a medieval hall, and asked Sir Joseph Paxton, the designer of the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, to create the lower garden.
The castle is still owned by the family, and their 15-bedroom residential wing is available for hire, but only in its entirety, rather than as individual rooms. The castle is an ideal venue for a celebration as it can accommodate up to 27 guests. One wing has been converted to house Lismore Castle Arts, which promotes contemporary Irish art and stages temporary exhibitions.
The seven-acre gardens, which are open to the public between March and October,
are divided into upper and lower areas. The upper garden dates from the early 17th century and is considered by many to be the oldest cultivated garden in Ireland. The flower borders and lawns coexist with sculptures by Antony Gormley, Franz West, Bridget McCrum, and Eilis O’Connell. The lower garden has an impressive collection of plants that love its acidic soil, including magnolia and camellias. lismorecastlegardens.com; lismorecastlearts.ie; thehallandlismorecastle.com
THE DONUM ESTATE, CALIFORNIA, USA
Founded in 2001, the Donum Estate in Sonoma, northern California, is a leader in single-vineyard pinot noir and chardonnay wines. Spread over 200 acres of hillside, it also includes groves of olive and eucalyptus trees and lavender fields.
The estate was acquired by the Danish entrepreneur and businessman Allan Warburg and his wife Mei in 2010, and the collectors have spent the past 13 years transforming the landscape with sculptures from their personal collection. Their taste is broad: artists whose work they have acquired include Ai Weiwei, Lynda Benglis, Anselm Kiefer, Louise Bourgeois, Gao Weigang, Ugo Rondinone, Zhan Wang, Keith Haring, Jaume Plensa, Elmgreen & Dragset, Fernando Botero, Richard Hudson, and Yue Minjun.
Warburg first went to China as student, and by the 1990s had set up a joint venture there with the Danish fashion company Bestseller, importing and selling western fashion into a fast-growing emerging market. Bestseller Fashion Group now has about 7,000 stores in the Far East. Warburg now resides in Hong Kong with his wife Mei. There isn’t a hotel at the Donum Estate as yet, but there are daily tours for visitors to taste the wines in a specially commissioned pavilion designed by the artist Olafur Eliasson and the architect Sebastian Behmann. thedonumestate.com
CASTELLO SAN BASILIO, ITALY
This fortress, near Matera in the southern Italian region of Basilicata, was built to protect a monastic community in the seventh century. It is now owned by the Berlingieri family, who have housed their art collection throughout the property for the past five decades. In 2019 the young collector Aloisia Leopardi was invited to start a program dedicated to artistic research, experimentation, and collaboration. The castle is now a project space for cultural exchange between artists, curators, collectors, and arts professionals, which aims to encourage the local communities in the surrounding villages to experience contemporary art.
Visiting the artists in residence and exhibitions is by appointment only; it is also possible to book a suite or room at the nearby agriturismo, Il Filaro del Castello del Castello San Basilio. Basilio alumni include the emerging artists Oren Pinhassi, Lucy Henshall, Michele Mathison, and Sheida Soleimani. The artists for 2023 are Kat Lyons and Anna Perach. castellosanbasilio.com
Photos: Andrea Bosio; Sim Cannetty-Clark; Alessandro Moggi; Lucy Henshall; Robert Berg; courtesy of @vik_wine and @vikchile, The Fife Arms, Lismore Castle and Lopud 1483