Local dignitaries and networkers were floating around the Hotel Murano’s lofty modernist lobby last Thursday at the launch of Tacoma’s newest art book, “Hotel Murano: The Collection.” But while the evening (and the hotel) was glamorous enough, the book – available in paper and iPad app – definitely isn’t.
Measuring just 8 ½ by 5 ½ inches, with a cover that isn’t much thicker than its pages, “Hotel Murano: The Collection” is everything the hotel’s actual art is not: small, hard to interpret, unimpressive. Ranging from the Costas Varotsos toilet bowl (sorry, curve of stacked green glass) on the street outside through the giant Vibeke Skov canoes and Karen LaMonte dresses in the lobby to the works that grace every one of the 21 guest floors, the book faces a black text page with a page of the art, often a collage of several works by that artist. Pretty, but tiny.
Not only is this glass art, with all its intricacies of light, dimension and surface, but it’s big glass art, for the most part: the canoes, some seven feet long, hanging overhead in the corridor each with a world of Norse myth fused and coldworked into them; or the giant octopus-like chandelier of Massimo Micheluzzi that hangs, silvery and mirrored, over the sitting area; or the intricately fragile, larger-than-life glass corsets of Susan Taylor Glasgow in the 15th-floor corridor. This is art you have to walk around, literally; to come up close to decipher and stand way back to assess.
Trying to condense this scale and world-class level of glass art into a few 4×5-inch pictures is not only ridiculous, it’s self-deprecating. It’s like trying to view the Grand Canyon on a cell phone. Even the iPad version would be preferable. About the only thing a book this size is useful for is to tote around for reference while you view the art – and surely that kind of information is easy enough to put on the wall labels or the website.
If Murano visitors want to buy postcards, then stock some. But to make a book of postcards and have that as the essential representative of the museum-quality art housed in this unique Tacoma hotel – that’s just a gross disservice to the art, the artists and Tacoma itself. If guests are prepared to pay big dollars to stay at the Murano, surely they can shell out for a coffee-table book. And surely the hotel’s profits would have allowed them to shell out to produce one.
“Hotel Murano: The Collection” is available for $14.99 in paperback at the Hotel Murano, 1320 Broadway, Tacoma, and on amazon.com. It’s also available in iPad app form at itunes.apple.com. Art at the Hotel Murano is viewable to the public in the lobby, restaurant and function rooms (first and second floors) but for guests only on upper floors.