"Ventaglio Grande #1." Giorgio Furiosio: "This painting really has guts . . . it's very expressionistic--not everyone can take this painting."
ANNIE GAWLAK is speaking from inside the Crowne Plaza Hotel, on Rockville Pike, near the White Flint mall. Gawlak, a Washington artist and art adviser, has brought together a collection of predominantly local art for the hotel. Rather than gather notoriously tacky "hotel art," Gawlak created an impressive showcase of the work of 25 of her friends and colleagues.
"On the Magothy." Dan Kuhne: "This is a Monet type of landscape . . . see the two kissing figures? That's what he Kuhne is like . . . a very emotional kind of person. You have to use a shoehorn to get his paintings out of him."
It all began when Gawlak held an "inventory sale" last November, featuring her work and that of her friends. The sale took place in Gawlak's "house/salon," as artist Walter Kravitz described it. "I thought that it was going to be a one-day affair," says Gawlak, "but people just began calling other people, and a friend suggested I call Mr. Kay . . . He's known for putting artwork in every building he puts up."
Alan Kay is a partner in Rozansky and Kay Construction Co., which built and owns the hotel with Mardeck, Ltd. Gawlak went to Kay's office, presented a slide show featuring the artists, and "within a week" the job of finding art for the hotel was hers.
Gawlak came on the job only six weeks before the hotel opened. "A designer had come with 'hotel art' before they called me in," she recalls. "They wanted real art in the hotel instead of the mere decorator stuff." Gawlak sent "truckloads" of artwork to her "art warehouse" in the hotel, and the owners then chose what they wanted. "The more I brought in the good artwork, the more they decided to go with it," she says.
"Third Flamingo." Billy Copley: "This is just a very audacious painting. It really caused a commotion. The architects hated it because it's so outrageous."
Gawlak's budget started at $50,000, but according to Kay, the hotel ended up spending "more than double that amount." A pleased Gawlak says "they threw caution to the wind," adding, "it's a real investment."
Gawlak's standards were high; she wanted the art to "say something . . . not be faddish but really showing what contemporary trends are." And the hotel owners cooperated fully. "Every time Alan Kay saw an empty wall, he would say, 'It needs a painting!' . . .
"They did not buy anything just because it had blue and red," Gawlak continues, pointing to the carpeting of the same colors.
Holiday Inn is building Crowne Plazas around the country, but the Rockville hotel was the first to open, on July 13. "It's an expensive, upgraded luxury hotel," says Kay, adding that 11 others are under construction.
From the outside, the Rockville Crowne Plaza looks like any number of new, high-rise hotels, but the inside is another story: a three-storied white gazebo in the middle of an atrium, an assortment of hanging greenery, lots of indoor/outdoor flooring. "You lose yourself in the hotel itself . . . forget where you are," says Gawlak. "It's supposed to be resort-like, a tropical pavilion." One of the artists says the hotel is "ugly"; Gawlak only admits, "it has a crazy sensibility."
"Win-Sen." W.C. Richardson: "It's exuberant, colorful--a real American feel to it . . . The name reminds me of a vanity license plate--like sitting at a red light wondering if it's really 'Pat 'n' Charlie' in front of you!"
There are about 50 works in the collection, some of which Gawlak has not yet hung. All of the works are wall-bound. Some of the artists are as well known as Sam Gilliam; Gawlak says there are "a few dark horses" and classifies all of the artists as "emerging."
And the artists are proud to be in each other's company. "It's not just a crowded hodgepodge," says Agnes Jacobs, "it's a high-class collection." Walter Kravitz praises Gawlak's efforts. "She is taking up the slack of the demise of the commercial galleries in town."
Rockville residents who have stopped by the Crowne Plaza have found that the collection is a pleasant surprise, according to Gawlak. She says that many of the artists have picked up new collectors from this venture, and the hotel owns more than one work from some of the artists. Richardson, known as "Chip," sold three paintings to the Crowne Plaza. "Chip now has a new kitchen in his home!" Gawlak laughed.
"Rondo IX, X, XI." Sam Gilliam: "When I was hanging this, office workers tapped on the window behind me and gave me a sign of approval."