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Museum Offers Realistic Hopper Painting Experience

The renowned American artist, Edward Hopper, was known for the realism that he brought to many of his paintings. Now, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond is offering its visitors the chance to enjoy a realistic experience all of their own – in one of his artworks! The museum has come up with an innovative interactive exhibition that is inspired by one of his famous creations. This one of a kind exhibit is a reproduction of a hotel room that was featured in one of Hopper’s works. Running throughout the winter until February 23rd, the unique installation will allow guests the opportunity to spend a night in what is a facsimile of a Hopper painting.

Image: Western Motel by Edward Hopper (copyright Edward Hopper)

Hopper, who was born in 1882 in New York State, painted Western Motel in 1957, a decade before his death when many considered he was making his most iconic artwork. This is a painting of a motel room and it is now at the centre of the gallery’s latest exhibition. The oil painting depicts a sunlit hotel room built in an open plan style. When it was first exhibited, the painting was noted by several critics for its elegant simplicity as well as Hopper’s ability to add a subtle sense of foreboding.

Western Motel also features a woman dressed in a sleeveless burgundy dress and a pair of matching shoes who is sat on the motel room’s bed seemingly looking straight back at the viewer. In the painting, the unknown female’s clothing is the same deep colour as the woodwork that is depicted on the bedhead and its baseboard. These colours have been carefully matched in the three-dimensional version that the gallery has created, offset by some rich green tones on the room’s carpet and walls. The big difference between the image and the real-life interpretation of it is that the presence of the figure is missing. As such, anyone who books to spend a night in the room will fulfil the role of the woman to some extent or other.

A Wider Exhibition

Although the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts expects its motel room inside the gallery to be one of their biggest – if not, their most novel – attractions, its interpretation of Western Motel is just one of the things it has on offer. There are no less than 60 different pieces by Hopper for fans of American realism to enjoy in the same exhibition. Like Western Motel, many of these works of art capture Hopper’s sense of ennui and detachment, something he was noted for in several of his images. In addition, several other notable artists working in similar styles will be on show. These include the British painter, David Hockney, for example, as well as American artists such as John Singer Sargent and Berenice Abbott.

A Gallery Sleepover

One of the first people to spend a night in the gallery’s version of Western Motel was a Richmond resident named Ellen Chapman. She said that she had always had a childhood fantasy that involved staying in a museum overnight when everyone else had gone home. “For me, the remarkable part was waking up in the room,” she said. “I drank my coffee and was able to look at the amazing exhibit right next to me,” she added.

However, there is a limited opportunity for others to follow in her path. Firstly, it will only available to people on three nights out of seven. Due to security arrangements for the rest of the museum, the authorities at the gallery have only made the room available on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. It can be seen, like the rest of the exhibition, at other times but spending the night is restricted to those days only.

What’s more, the room is only available from 9pm and anyone who spends the night in it will be expected to have checked out by 8am the following morning. That may seem like it is a little on the restrictive side but, as the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has pointed out, this is no ordinary room. Besides, it needs to ensure the installation is ready for other visitors to enjoy when the gallery reopens to the public after it has been occupied.

A Unique Opportunity

Although other museums have provided the opportunity for visitors to camp out overnight, the idea of inhabiting a work of art is a new one. The deputy director for communications at the gallery, Jan Hatchette, said that it is the first time her institution had offered guests the chance to stay there regardless of the 3D painting idea. “As well as the extensive security measures [we have at the museum]… every night, a designated security officer is stationed close to the Hotel Experience during stays,” she said.

Hatchette went on to state that it was important to have a security employee on duty for the entire duration of their guests’ overnight visits because it helped to make sure both visitors and the many works of art in the gallery remain safeguarded. According to the director, complimentary slippers and gallery-branded bathrobes are available for visitors although there is no en-suite despite the room’s $150 per night price tag.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts isn’t the first cultural institution to offer the public the stay the night. Earlier this year Louvre teamed up with Airbnb to offer the chance to sleep in the French Museum.

Cover Image: Travis Fullerton/Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

About the author – Manuel Charr

Manuel Charr is a journalist working in the arts and cultural sectors. With a background in marketing, Manuel is drawn to arts organizations which are prepared to try inventive ways to reach new audiences.

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