When Nobel Peace Prize winners head to Oslo, they stay at the Grand Hotel. When Rihanna, Pink, Steven Tyler and Justin Bieber go to Oslo, they stay at The Thief.
Here’s why. The Thief is provocative, inspiring, even ballsy. I mean, who else would name a hotel after a villain, especially in a city where art thievery (Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” has been stolen not once, but twice in Oslo) has made international headlines?
The Thief has the pedigree to get away with it. It’s owned by Norwegian billionaire, Petter Stordalen, who steals away to his 170-some Nordic Choice Hotels in a biofuel-powered Ferrari. He also chained himself to a nuclear plant in England in 2002, but that’s another story.
In only two years, this edgy hotel has created a splash nearly as big as Pal Enger who, with three other men, waltzed into Oslo’s National Gallery on the opening day of the Lillehammer Winter Olympics and made off with Scream.
The Thief’s contemporary art collection is its protagonist, not some afterthought to match the bedspreads. Curated by Sune Nordgren, the former director of Norway’s National Museum, the hotel’s art collection includes the most important names in contemporary art. The restaurant has a $2.5 million Andy Warhol, the elevators feature Julian Opie video images of blinking, winking women and the Oslo Suite has several Peter Blake installations. Each of the 118 rooms has original contemporary art.
No wonder this bold hotel that sprang up on Tjuvholmen (this tiny island along the Oslo Fjord from reclaimed docklands actually means Thieves Island) has earned the dubious distinction of paying the world’s highest hotel insurance premiums. It’s one thing to abscond with those tiny hotel shampoo bottles, but at this hotel you’re sleeping next to art by Richard Prince, Albert Merz and Fiona Banner. There’s even photography of Kate Moss taken by Bryan Ferry and albums covers from Roxy music.
My favorite perk of staying at The Thief is free admission to Europe’s hottest new contemporary art museum. The Astrup Fearnley Museum of Art, designed by renowned Italian architect, Renzo Piano, is a few steps from Fru K’s, the Thief’s organic, local, artistically inspiring restaurant, and all guests have to do is show their room key for complimentary entry.
I’ve followed bad boy Damien Hirst’s career since 1992 when his controversial shark in formaldehyde landed him a nomination for that year’s Turner Prize. So having unlimited access to The Astrup Fearnley (I went twice) that has a whole room and a half of Hirst’s work was one of the highlights of my time in Oslo.
Of course, entry to this privately-owned contemporary art gallery that created a stir in 2002 when it paid $5.1 million for Jeff Koons gilt porcelain of Michael Jackson with pet chimp Bubbles is just the beginning of Thief amenities.
The robes are designed by internationally-renowned designer Cecilie Juvodden. The chairs by Antonio Citterio and, if you want, you can actually purchase original pieces of art right from your 42-inch plasma TV.
Guests get a treasure map for scouting the hotel’s art collection and, for those crazy enough to to leave the premises (my chief question being, “Why?) just know that within walking distance, there’s a beach, a sculpture garden and many of Oslo’s best galleries and restaurants. City Center’s also nearby.
As the hotel promises, it’s guaranteed to steal you away from the ordinary.
The Thief, Landgangen 1; 47-24-00-40-00, Oslo; thethief.com/en.