French Installation Artist Daniel Buren Has Transformed Six Hotels With Color and Sculpture

Three years ago, the LVMH-owned hotel group Belmond began working with Italy’s Galleria Continua on a program to bring the work of a diverse group of renowned artists into their 47 global properties. But midway in, they decided it could be more impactful to commission a single person for a series that would span multiple locations, and so the gallery called the famed French installation artist Daniel Buren with an ambitious proposal: to create six site-specific works in six hotels across Italy, South Africa, France, and Brazil. Buren said… maybe. “He told me, ‘I have to see all the places first,’” Continua co-founder Lorenzo Fiaschi recalled at a press conference for the project last month. “I thought it was just a polite way to say no!” Fiaschi laughed, to which Buren immediately quipped dryly, “But I’m not polite.” Jokes aside, the artist’s request wasn’t actually all that surprising considering the nature of his practice: He makes work almost exclusively by invitation, and everything he creates is in response to the location and context in which he’s creating it. For Mitico, the Belmond collaboration — the final results of which were unveiled over the past two months — each of his installations was envisioned in direct response to the architecture or surrounding landscape of the hotels.

The series includes three projects set in Italy. In Venice, at Hotel Cipriani, Buren saw children playing near a small, otherwise-overlooked fountain, and found out that it was the only original element left on the property after the hotel was built on the site of a former villa in 1958. He erected a multi-color pavilion around it, taking care to make some of its panels transparent for safety reasons — in case a child fell into the fountain’s surprisingly deep pool. In Tuscany, at the 15th-century Villa San Michele, Buren turned a small glass-roofed bar into the most popular space in the hotel by transforming it with colored panels, while at the nearby Castello di Casole, he opted to highlight the verdant, panoramic views with a series of three gigantic, striped geometric frames. Looking through them, “you can see a small village far away, on another hill; if you move from one frame to another, because of the long distances between them, you always see that same village, but the view of it is very different,” he said.

At the Copacabana Palace in Rio, Buren actually wanted to transform the hotel’s entire façade, but faced with the daunting expense and logistics of doing so, he found a clever workaround: Adding colored filters to the windows of each room. The effect shifts depending on whether it’s day or night, and whether guests’ lights are on or off. Cape Town’s 125-year-old Mount Nelson hotel is less about color and more about form, with another fountain installation consisting of a ring of striped and mirrored pillars, while in Mallorca, at La Residencia, Buren created a monumental translucent, colored pergola over the terrace that — on the island’s many sunny days — cheerfully drapes its occupants in rainbows.

Mitico might have been Buren’s first hotel collaboration, but the project actually comes full circle for the artist: When he was 20, his first big commission was for a hotel in the Virgin Islands, when a family friend invited him to spend a year creating a site-specific painting for one of the property’s spaces. “Being invited gives you the opportunity to really be surprised by the places you’re invited to,” Buren said. “So  that’s really the way I’ve worked since, and I must say that I’ve done many things because of this one guy.” Explore six of those things below.


Hotel Cipriani, Venice

Castello di Casole, Tuscany

Villa San Michele, Tuscany

Copacabana Palace, Rio de Janiero

La Residencia, Mallorca

Mount Nelson, Cape Town

Photo credits: Daniel Buren, Descanso colorido para La Residencia, trabajo in situ, 2024. Details. DB-ADAGP, 2024. Daniel Buren, Sosta colorata per Hotel Cipriani, lavoro in situ, 2023-2024. Details. DB-ADAGP, 2024. Daniel Buren, Sosta colorata per Villa San Michele, lavoro in situ, 2024. Details. DB-ADAGP, 2024. Daniel Buren, Sosta colorata per Castello di Casole, lavoro in situ, 2024. Details. DB-ADAGP, 2024. Daniel Buren, Escala colorida para Copacabana Palace, trabalho in situ, 2023-2024. Détails. © DB-ADAGP, 2024. Daniel Buren, Colourful Halt for Mount Nelson, work in situ, 2023. Details. © DB-ADAGP.