By Jo Stansfield, founder and director, artbnb:
I am a landlord, art lover and technologist, and the confluence of these things led me to start artbnb. Using my own short-term rental apartment as the prototype, artbnb transforms short-term rental accommodation with local art and offers it for sale to the guests. Offering novel exhibition space to artists enables them to reach a new audience, and helps landlords establishing their short-stay business to enhance and differentiate their property while keeping costs affordable. I have great pride in my hometown of Cambridge, UK, and my decision to enter the hospitality industry was certainly influenced by my desire to welcome visitors to this great, historic university city. I believe art and travel are mutually complementary. Art in short-term rentals provides a unique opportunity to engage our guests emotionally and intellectually, subtly altering and personalising their experience, bringing benefit to guest, host and even the local community.
People embark upon travel for a multitude of reasons, be it business or pleasure, necessity or adventure. There are those who seek comfort, luxury and safety, and those who wish to disrupt routine, shed day-to-day constraints and seek peak experience or cultural immersion. Whatever the reasons, travel evokes emotion. For a first visit to a new destination we may feel excitement and anticipation, trepidation or anxiety. We may be filled with curiosity and fascination, or we may be hit by culture shock finding need for a safe space for adjustment. The travel experience itself may be smooth or it can be fraught, being herded through busy airports with generic souvenirs. Delays and problems can fill us with stress and frustration.
So as travellers we arrive at our destination with emotional needs. Our accommodation becomes our temporary sanctuary where we can recharge, find some calm, and emerge with renewed energy for whatever the purpose of visit. When visiting somewhere known to us, familiarity brings some pleasure. When visiting a new destination, we may wish to absorb the culture, expanding our awareness to fully experience the place. With increasing globalisation and modernisation, travellers have to work harder to discover the authentic place, and increasing travel offerings of genuine experience are arising. At both ends of this spectrum, local art plays a role in our experience of place. It creates atmosphere, and helps us understand its history, people, and vicariously assimilate their experiences.
Psychological research has confirmed the intuitive belief that travel broadens the mind, making us more open-minded and creative. This cognitive flexibility even endures beyond the stay. Similarly, art creation involves imagination, creativity and problem solving. It manifests not only the artist’s intentions but also social significance. Susana Goncalves, in the book, “Art and Intercultural Dialog”, describes visual art as a cultural mediator, being one of the easiest to understand art forms cross-culturally. It transcends language to communicate sensory, imaginative and conceptual expression, enabling us to relate to even the most different of cultures. Like travel, art exposes us to culture of the other, and with this experience changes us.
Art may provide a gratifying experience of beauty, or it may challenge understanding and induce strong emotions. Art touches us all, yet reactions can differ greatly, influenced by personality, social and cultural setting, motivations, mood, our memories, as well as the artwork itself. Cognition about the historical significance, symbolism or the culture may greatly influence our experiences. Our psychological reactions to art are also known to affected by colour, brightness and saturation (vividness). Greens and blues are more typically linked to pleasure and calm, while reds, yellows, and highly saturated colours may be more stimulating yet linked with anxiety.
In my own experience, even those who profess to have no artistic inclination or preference, when shown two or three images can pick out their favourite, describing with some lucidity what draws them to this above the others. Formally known as “psychological aesthetics”, research into the psychology of art has undergone a renaissance in the past decade. Approaches span cognitive, investigating the underlying information-processing involved in art appreciation, neurological, studying the brain’s response when experiencing art, and phenomenological, seeking rich description of the lived experience of art appreciation. Each approach seeks explanation for our emotional, evaluative and physiological reactions to art. Reaching back to philosophical roots, German philosopher Heidegger posed that meaning may exist and arise through our experiences with art.
Travel and art then share some important psychological characteristics. Recent research even found links between artist creativity and travel, measured by value of artwork produced by predominant modern artists. In the year following an artist’s travel, their artwork received on average a seven per cent boost in value. The researchers suggest the increased knowledge, inspiration and diffusion of new ideas causes greater creative productivity. Some frequent travellers include renowned painters Picasso, Chagall, Matisse and Munch.
However, in recent times, urban development has displaced affordable exhibition spaces for artists, with many local artists now struggling to exhibit their work. We are instead seeing new types of exhibition space spring up: cafes, artist collectives in disused buildings, and more. Art is increasingly being displayed in hospitals, with research pointing to health benefits for patients. For hosts, landlords and property managers, original art presents a unique opportunity to better serve our guests, to increase the marketability of properties and to promote social responsibility towards our communities. Through understanding the typical needs of our guests, we can create a personalised space for their stay, using local art to root the property in local culture.
While psychological theory tends to describe general patterns, guest feedback has highlighted to me the uniqueness of each experience, highlights punctuating my experience as landlord. From the guest artwork strewn through my guest book, to the seven-year-old who wrote about her inspiration from the pictures now wanting to be a famous artist, to the mother who had travelled with her daughter for an interview to study History of Art at Cambridge University. What better place to stay! I feel pride to have created an environment for these myriad experiences, to be supporting the local artist community and to have embedded my short-term rental in the vibrant local culture.
Travel bloggers for “& Away we went”, Jeremy and Jen, said: “One of our favourite aspects of travelling is its ability to help show, even if just slightly, the lives and aesthetics of the people in the area we visit. For that reason, we try to stay in as many Airbnbs or guesthouses, especially as they often have so much personality embedded in them with the art that people choose to display.
“A lot of the time, this art and decoration has the dual benefits of making the home feel more welcoming while also exposing us to some of the local style—which is always awesome,” they added.
Sculptor Mark Radcliffe-Evans said: “There is perennial need to stress the importance for art in all of our environments – work, domestic, health and education, particularly as the wave of development in our towns and cities leads to the need to find diversified alternatives. We need to have objects that give us pleasure and that make us wonder.”
Peymans director Na’im Anis Peyman said: “At Peymans, we strive to provide a unique level of service to our guests by seeking to innovate in all aspects of our operations and offering. Including handmade art in our units through Artbnb is a great way of adding a special touch to the properties, allowing our guests to enjoy looking at (or even buying) unique pieces of art, and supporting local artists.”
For more information about artbnb, visit its website here.