Oklahoma Today|May/June 2020
The Artist’s Apartment above Liggett Pottery in Tulsa
WORLD-CLASS CONTEMPORARY ART, HIGH-END CUISINE, AND A LUXURY BOUTIQUE HOTEL EXPERIENCE PUT OKLAHOMA CITY’S 21C MUSEUM HOTEL IN A TIER ALL ITS OWN.
AS SOON AS you step inside, it’s clear 21c Museum Hotel is much more than a place to park your bags and body for the night. For starters, it doesn’t look like a hotel. The 1915 building, which occupies an entire block near downtown Oklahoma City, was one of twenty-three Model T factories built by Ford. The former province of Tin Lizzies now contains contemporary art exhibits, a restaurant and bar, and meeting rooms. It also hosts frequent parties, weddings, classes, and other events.
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Founded in 2007, 21c is a Kentucky-based hotel chain born of Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson’s desire to share their contemporary art collection with the public. Nine hotels across the country showcase an assortment so vast that a single piece has yet to repeat itself. The ground-floor exhibits rotate through each hotel every nine to twelve months.
21c Museum Hotel in Oklahoma City
“The art is different at each location, but it’s always contemporary and forward-thinking,” says Melanie Bray, Oklahoma City 21c’s director of sales and marketing. “At the core, you should witness a passion for what our team is doing: hospitality at its finest, delicious food, and a damn good bourbon drink.”
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In a nod to the building’s roots as an assembly-line factory, James Clar’s conveyor belt-like River of Time, a Wonka-esque permanent installation, occupies a sizeable portion of the lobby. Outside, Matthew Geller’s life-sized copper tree Woozy Blossom envelops the sidewalk in an ethereal fog it emits throughout the day.
Inside, guests can slip into Mary Eddy’s Kitchen and Lounge for a cocktail and then wander the galleries, which Bray says is a popular first date among visitors. Chef JeffPatton’s kitchen does a lot of butchering and curing in-house, which makes for mighty fine charcuterie, steaks, and other meats. Every dish receives a level of attention that pleases diners of all dietary inclinations, whether it’s a dry-aged New York strip, buttery scallops and ravioli, or lemon bread pudding topped with pickled blueberries, mascarpone, whipped cream, and candied almond slivers.
Above all this, four floors house 135 rooms, and the hyper-posh 21c suite, which encompasses the entire fifth floor, can host up to 125 people for events. Rotating exhibits from local artists greet visitors at every elevator bank on the guest floors. Beyond them, dim wide corridors with high ceilings evoke the moody drama of an early ’90s George Michael music video and lead to the hotel’s well-appointed guest rooms. Details throughout—like subtle tire tread patterns in the carpet and steering wheel faucet handles— call to the building’s past. Huge windows, unique wall art, sofas, and luxuriously outfitted beds give each one the feel of a uncluttered, high-end loft that you might want to fall asleep in full time. Because whatever else 21c is, it’s a good place to dream.
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