LOUISVILLE, KY.—21c Museum Hotels announced the opening of its seventh property in Nashville, Tenn. Building on its mission of engaging the public with contemporary art and supporting the revitalization of American downtowns, 21c has rehabilitated the historic Gray & Dudley Building in Downtown Nashville near Printer’s Alley. Located at 221 2nd Avenue North, 21c Museum Hotel Nashville offers 10,500 square feet of contemporary art exhibition space open free of charge to the public, a 124-room boutique hotel, and the locally-inspired, Gray & Dudley restaurant helmed by Chef Levon Wallace.
“We have had our sights set on Nashville for quite some time, and are excited to bring 21c to Music City,” said Steve Wilson, Founder and CEO of 21c Museum Hotels. “With such a robust and exciting art and music scene, we felt the destination matched perfectly with our brand ethos, and we look forward to contributing to the area’s thriving cultural landscape.”
Contemporary art is at the heart of the 21c experience. The company was founded by Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, contemporary art collectors and preservationists who believe in the power of art to transform communities. 21c Nashville presents rotating solo and group exhibitions, site-specific installations and a full roster of cultural programming curated by Museum Director and Chief Curator Alice Gray Stites, reflecting 21c’s practice of supporting and exhibiting new work by established and emerging artists, and weaving contemporary art into daily life. In the 11 years since its founding, 21c Museum Hotels has commissioned more than 50 site-specific projects that respond and contribute to the character and culture of the communities in which they are located.
New, site-specific installations are among the major works by an international roster of artists that will be on view at 21c Nashville. Commissioned by 21c Museum Hotels, the multimedia works will be installed throughout the public and private spaces of the hotel, drawing on themes as diverse as technology, pop culture, and the environment. The series of site-specific works features electronic artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Bilateral Time Slicer Intermix, 2017, which uses facial recognition software to record an image of each viewer who passes by a screen. The image is then cut in half and spliced with images of other visitors, in a shifting kaleidoscope of hybrid portraits, which will also appear on screens in the public restrooms. Artists Sebastiaan Bremer, Yung Jake, and Adrian Grenier will transform guest suites through immersive works that variously incorporate sound installations, photographs, videos, and large-scale paintings. These experiential installations will invite guest participation, dissolving the barriers between art and the visitor found in a traditional museum space.
21c Nashville will also feature a rotating schedule of curated exhibitions. On view until January 2018, the inaugural exhibition, Truth or Dare: A Reality Show, includes painting, sculpture, photography, video, digital animation, and installations by more than 24 artists that layer fiction with fact, narrating both the complexity and the necessity for seeking and speaking the truth. Through works that simulate games, maps, sleights of the eye and hand, and draw on illusion, the exhibition will playfully and thoughtfully navigate the slippery terrain between fantasy and reality. Truth or Dare will include works by Leo Villareal, Shahzia Sikander, Serkan Özkaya, and Richard Mosse, among others. The exhibition highlights 21c’s commitment to using art as a lens through which to view important current events and issues, exploring the complicated nature of truth today. Docent tours of current exhibitions and site-specific installations are offered free of charge to the public on Wednesdays and Fridays at 5 p.m.
21c will continue engaging with the local community through its ongoing initiative, Elevate 21c, an exhibition program that features works by local artists. Dedicated exhibition spaces on each of the guestroom floors will present works on loan from Nashville-based artists. The installations will change periodically, offering opportunities for a wide range of artists to share their work with a visiting audience, and creating a sense of place for guests. The Elevate program was introduced at 21c Cincinnati in 2012, and runs throughout the seven locations of 21c’s multi-venue museum.
Architecture & Design
Design and architecture firm Deborah Berke Partners has reimagined the historic Gray & Dudley Building as 21c Nashville, preserving the building’s historic elements while creating a versatile platform for exhibiting contemporary art.
Erected in 1900, the building’s first life was as a former wholesale hardware company, the Gray & Dudley Hardware Co. Situated between 2nd and 3rd Avenues and flanked by Bank Alley, the Chicago Style building boasts large arched windows, an articulated masonry façade with terra cotta accents, and a prominent cornice at the roofline. Visitors to the hotel enter from 2nd Avenue into the lobby gallery, featuring historic cast-iron columns, a welcoming reception area, a boutique gift shop that doubles as a lounge and the video gallery designed to showcase new media and digital contemporary art. The space overlooks the double-height Main Gallery on the lower level.
Contemporary art is integrated throughout the public spaces, including the public restrooms with mirrored tiles enveloping a video art installation. A gallery corridor leads to the restaurant, featuring a double-height space centered on a bar with a more intimate dining room and open kitchen adjacent. Custom wood, blackened steel elements and copper and zinc accents set off against deep, luxurious colors to give the restaurant a highly crafted and refined feel. Large metal windows and doors overlook Banker’s Alley, which features an outdoor dining area with custom catenary lighting to enliven the previously little-used passage.
The second floor of the hotel is comprised of additional gallery space, with works featured throughout the extended corridor before branching off into separate rooms that double as meeting and event space. The area features a variety of breakout and meeting rooms along with a larger boardroom, all showcasing art from the 21c Collection.
21c Nashville is Deborah Berke Partner’s seventh collaboration with the 21c Museum Hotels team and its fourth collaboration with Pittsburgh-based Executive Architect, Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff and Goettel.
Nashville-based contractor R.C.Mathews Company served as the Construction Manager for 21c Nashville.
Meetings & Events
The property’s museum space doubles as meeting and event space, and can accommodate a wide variety of gatherings. On the second floor, meeting galleries and pre-function spaces are suited to events of differing sizes. Several of these spaces overlook the double-height bar area, creating visual connections between various parts of the building and enhancing the sense of activity throughout the hotel. A blackened-steel staircase with perforated metal risers and leather-wrapped hand rails connects the public floors from the Main Gallery on the lower level up to the ground floor and beyond to the gallery and meeting space on the 2nd floor, providing a sense of unity and ease of wayfinding.
The 124 guestrooms and suites at 21c Nashville provide a welcomed sanctuary from the art and activity that fills the galleries and vibrant spaces in and surrounding the property. Designed by Deborah Berke Partners, guestrooms showcase wood floors and high ceilings, custom contemporary furnishings, large windows and luxurious floor-to-ceiling drapery. Three newly-built light wells bring natural illumination into the core of the building, including guestrooms facing the building’s interior.
The hotel features seven rooftop suites, including the spacious 21c Suite with views of the Cumberland River and surrounding historic district. Featuring apartment-style accommodations, the penthouse level 21c Suite includes more than 1,700 square feet of living and outdoor space. Guests can enjoy an expansive, master bedroom with a king bed; an en suite bathroom with a luxurious soaking tub and glass-enclosed shower; a separate powder room for visitors; and an open concept living and dining area with a folding glass wall, providing access to the spacious outdoor terrace overlooking downtown.
The Honky Tonk Getaway provides guests with the opportunity to slide on their cowboy boots and experience Nashville up close and personal. Travelers will receive a $100 credit towards dinner plus two local beers at Gray & Dudley; two tickets to the Country Music Hall of Fame; a backstage tour of The Ryman, the city’s premier music venue; a custom Hatch Show print poster; and two Recession Specials at local hangout, Robert’s Western World. Guests can also book the Live Like a Local Package, featuring complimentary valet parking; breakfast on-site at Gray & Dudley; a map of insider tips for getting to know Nashville in 48 hours or less; a quintessentially Nashville, GooGoo Cluster turndown; and a whiskey stones set from the 21c Shop. A variety of other packages are also available.
Led by executive chef and 21c alum Levon Wallace, the property is home to Gray & Dudley, which showcases the chef’s commitment to sourcing local, high-quality seasonal ingredients and thoughtful yet simple cooking techniques. Gray & Dudley brings an eclectic menu to downtown Nashville, inspired by Wallace’s West Coast roots. Market driven dishes are fresh, bright, honest and playful, with some showcasing traditional hearth cooking methods.
The restaurant name pays homage to the building’s past life housing the Gray & Dudley Co., which redeveloped the building around 1899 using the first floor as its retail showroom and upper floors for wholesale hardware operations. The former use of the building provided inspiration to 21c and the design team led by Deborah Berke Partners as they reimagined the space as a restaurant and lounge, embracing and celebrating both the history of the space and the future of modern hospitality at Gray & Dudley.
Inside, guests will find a lively yet relaxed reprieve from the commotion of Broadway, and an ambiance that plays with the grit of the building’s history but maintains an element of sophistication. The east dining room, bar and lounge space soars with double-height ceilings, grounded by a custom wood and blackened steel bar with copper and zinc accents. The rich color palate and industrial materials juxtapose the space’s past and future. The west dining room is intimate, with a more refined décor of marble accents and softer materials. Two private dining rooms, each with seating for 12, can be used independently or in unison for casual or more ceremonious group event. Large historic windows overlook Banker’s Alley, bringing renewed attention to the underutilized downtown passage.
The opening exhibition at Gray & Dudley, entitled Menagerie, features the work of Beth Cavener Stichter, as well as photographs by Rodney Batista, Laura Lee Brown, Tim Flach, and Anthony Goicolea that depict animal imagery. Stichter’s ceramic sculptures combine human and animal traits, reflecting her fascination with both human and animal behavior and what she describes as her interest in reading meaning in the subtler signs and the slightest unconscious gestures. Among the works on view will be Stichter’s Spanish Feral Meat Goats, a sculptural series modeled on descendants of livestock brought to the United States in the 16th century, which depict figures caught in movement or conversation, as well as a selection of multi-hued figures from Stichter’s Emotions series, modeled after the four Greek “humours”.