Check-in to an Edward Hopper painting at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Check-in to an Edward Hopper painting at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Edward Hopper, 'Western Motel', 1957. Yale University Art Gallery. © 2019 Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper/ARS.
Must see  -   Exhibitions

In April, the Louvre announced that they would be giving away a night stay inside the museum. In partnership with Airbnb, a couple of lucky guests would get a once-in-a-lifetime experience staying inside one of the world’s most popular institutions. But, what if you could stay inside a painting? Raising the bar to the next level, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) announced that they’ll soon offer an experience that not only lets you stay the night in the museum but also stay in an Edward Hopper painting.

Well, by stay in the painting, the museum will give visitors the opportunity to stay overnight in a recreation of the room depicted in Western Motel (1965). The experience will be a part of ‘Edward Hopper and the American Hotel,’ an exhibition exploring Hopper’s depiction of the American landscapes and places, like hotels, motels, and boarding houses, of the mid-20th century. The exhibition will feature more than 60 works by Hopper including paintings, watercolours, illustrations, and drawings. In addition to the works by Hopper, the museum will present about 35 other works by American artists, like John Singer Sargent, Cindy Sherman, and Richard Caton Woodville, who similarly worked with such themes.

Western Hotel is one of Hopper’s best-known paintings. Like his 1942 Nighthawks, the viewer looks into a vignette almost in the shoes of a voyeur. In Western Motel, a woman in a maroon dress sits on a motel bed with bags packed. Is she startled? Are we a familiar sight? Is she checking-in or checking-out of the motel? Outside of the large picture window, the front of a green automobile sits in the middle ground before the deserted mountain landscape. In usual Hopper fashion, the palette is subdued and the scene isn’t cluttered. For museum guests interested in experiencing the scene, three-dimensionally, that is, there are a number of options, for different price ranges for what the VMFA is calling the ‘Hopper Hotel Experience.’ For those taking part in the experience, there will be options to have dinner at the museum’s restaurant, the chance for a guided tour with Dr Leo G. Mazow, curator of the VMFA, and exhibition catalogues, among other special Hopper-based experiences.

The Hopper exhibition is special not only for the ‘Hopper Hotel Experience’ but also for the artist’s relationship to the museum. In 1938, he was chairman of the jury for the first biennial exhibition at the VMFA. In 1953, he returned to be part of the jury once again. The museum purchased their first Hopper, House at Dusk (1935), which will be a part of the upcoming exhibition, that same year.

The exhibition press release touts the show as a ‘rare opportunity to see several of the acclaimed American artist’s most beloved works in person and in a new context,’ and honestly, the VMFA might be onto an entirely new way of experiencing art.

‘Edward Hopper and the American Hotel’ will run from October 26th through February 23rd. The exhibition was curated by Dr. Leo G. Mazow.