When your room key features a black and white photo of Betty Ford dancing on the Cabinet Room table, you have to figure you’re probably not in an ordinary hotel. Other hints would be the spiritual menu that dispenses every religious literary work from the Talmud to the Koran. Or the 36 by 48-inch portrait of Michael Richards (Seinfield’s Kramer) hanging outside your door.
Yes, I’m at the Hotel Lucia, the downtown Portland boutique hotel that doubles as an art museum. I’m here, not to gawk at Hotel Lucia’s art, though I certainly did, but for the rare opportunity to take in a Mark Rothko retrospective at the Portland Museum of Art.
Not many people know this about the artist whose color-saturated abstract paintings made him so famous, but he grew up here (after immigrating from Russia with his family) and took his first art class here. In fact, his first one-man show, staged in 1933 long before his paintings were selling for tens of millions of dollars, was curated at the very museum hosting this current show, 45 pieces that trace his work from the late 1920’s until shortly before his 1970 suicide.
Curator Bruce Guenther assembled the impressive exhibit from private collections, museums, the National Gallery of Art and Rothko children that famously sued to reclaim the nearly 800 paintings in his estate. They were successful in securing the return of all but 100 paintings including Homage to Matisse that sold in 2005 for a record $22.5 million and White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) that broke that record two years later, selling at Sotheby’s for $72.8 million. The exhibit moves from his early figurative works to the brooding subway series he painted for the WPA to the transcendent abstractions that created his legacy.
That Hotel Lucia is running a special Rothko promotion is not a big surprise. It has, after all, developed quite a reputation with its permanent exhibit of 680 black and white photos from the portfolio of another Portland original, Pulitzer-prize winning photographer David Hume Kennerly. In every corridor, guest room, bathroom and even elevator, Kennerly’s stunning photographs tell the story of American politics from Nixon on. In fact, it was a bit disconcerting sleeping in a bed so close to Dick Cheney and Leonid Brezhnev. Luckily, Kramer and Ansel Adams were there to weigh in. Even the 24-hour fitness center and the business office where I printed out my boarding passes showcased art, colorful pieces by Portland artists Mike Russo and Gregory Grennon.
One of my favorite features of Hotel Lucia is their “Get it Now” button. That means that, even if it’s 3 in the morning and you’re craving khao ka moo (a Thai dish involving stewed pork leg, for those who have never craved it), all you need do it push the button and voila!, they’ll figure out a way to make it happen. Which is another reason this hip and sassy boutique has a dedicated clientele of Hollywood and music stars. Although my lips are sealed as to who wanted what, here is a short list of “Get it Now” requests over the years: chocolate milk and Dom Perignon (at the same time), a fruit and vegetable juicer and an exotic, but legal mushroom, four unripe mangoes (don’t ask), a separate room for the luggage, 24-hour dog sitting and a TV mounted on the ceiling.
The other worth-mentioning feature of Hotel Lucia is the amenities They’re all local (I like that in a hotel) from Portland’s own Mada bath goodies to Portland Roasting coffee and Smith teas.
Included in Lucia’s Rothko promotion are tickets to the Portland Art Museum, a $20 certificate to the museum’s gift shop and two “Red on The Rocks,” colorful cocktails inspired by Rothko’s paintings.
The Rothko respective runs through May 27 as does Hotel Lucia’s “Rothko in Retrospect” package. To book, call 866.986.8086 or visit www.hotellucia.com.