Virgin Hotels Dallas opened its doors in the heart of the Dallas Design District in December of 2019, and now serves as a comfortable and stylish place to rest your head at the end of the day. It also embodies the spirit of Dallas through its local arts scene. Art Curator, Lesli Marshall, owner of Articulation Art, partnered with the Virgin Hotels to curate the hotel’s original art program, from sculptural installations and paintings in the Funny Library Coffee Shop to murals in private meeting rooms featuring commissions by both local and visiting artists.
“I wanted to be very specific with the concepts and what artists would be the best fit,” says Marshall. “Virgin Hotels is such a fun, adventurous, cheeky brand – I wanted to reflect that in the art. You’ll see a mix of sculpture, murals, mixed media, and found objects.”
Marshall tapped Los Angles-based artist Drew Merritt to create a landmark mural on the hotel’s façade playfully embracing the Virgin Group ethos. The mural depicts a larger-than-life scene of a young girl floating through space (a nod to Virgin Galactic) wearing a Victorian dress and sporting a copper dive helmet, representing Richard Branson’s commitment to protecting the ocean. Other symbols include a floating crown, a periscope, high heels, a carousel horse with a microphone for a handle and paper airplanes made of sheet music by Virgin recording artists like Roy Orbison and Smashing Pumpkins. “The periscope she holds is for looking forward to adventure and the high heel has been lost because she knows how to have a good time,” says Marshall.
To create the composition, Merritt shoots his own photography to use as a model and then spray paints his murals by hand at scale. “I knew that I wanted to use Drew because his style is the perfect fit for Virgin Hotels. It is timeless, bold, and his use of photorealism is truly like no other,” says Marshall. “Dallas hasn’t had this type of work and it was the perfect time to bring it to life. It will be an icon for the city and the hotel.”
Other highlights of the hotel’s arts program include Kenneth Crain and his Studio No. 217 team’s massive Moon Ship sculpture at the hotel’s entrance, Michael Reeder’s mixed media work for the meeting and event space and, inside Funny Library Coffee Shop, Sergio Garcia’s tongue-and-cheek sculptures and a playful mural by Jeremy Biggers.
Of the Dallas art scene, Marshall says, “Dallas is becoming a really cool city and bringing giant art moments to life. I love that you can explore in the neighborhood of Deep Ellum and discover something new on every corner. Our museums are free and open to the public and there are constant pop-up events all over the city. The Dallas Design District has been doing an incredible job of bringing in other artists and creating a cool neighborhood.”
Writer: Shayne Benowitz