Saturday, October 16, 1999

Art'otel Ermelerhaus, Berlin

24-Hour Room Service

Art'otel Ermelerhaus, Berlin

Jeremy Atiyah

Published: 16 October 1999

Don't get this place wrong: it is not a design hotel but an "art" hotel. It has been designed to display the private art collection of a wealthy German investor and collector, Mr Dirk Gadeke.

Mr Gadeke told me how owning hotels was a simple way to satisfy himself, the artist and the public. Put the works of name artists in every room and you have a hotel that is a gallery.

His theory is that this will encourage a certain kind of international clientele: sophisticated, arty and hip. To this end he has opened similar hotels, each dedicated to different artists, in Potsdam and Dresden. He plans to open more in Paris and London.

The artist for whom this central Berlin hotel has been designed is none other than Georg Baselitz, a German painter and one of the world's leading contemporary artists. Every one of the 109 bedrooms houses one or two of his works and the breakfast room contains several large Andy Warhols.

The "Ermelerhaus" building at the back of the hotel, incidentally, is a rococo palace dating back to the 18th century (which was moved to its current location from a nearby street in the 1960s). The Ermelerhaus contains a restaurant which was the most famous in the former GDR; Erich Honecker himself often dined there.

Location, location, location
Art'Otel Ermelerhaus Berlin, Wallstraße 70-73, d-10179 Berlin-Mitte. Tel: 00 49 30 240 620. Fax: 00 49 30 240 62 222.

On paper you are close to the centre of the city, but this is the old East Berlin. You have a 10-minute walk through bleak, dark and empty streets to the commercial centre, Alexanderplatz, and the view south from the upstairs windows approximates to Stalin's dream of the industrial future. Not that you won't like it. You're facing a quiet street on one side and a leg of the Spree on the other. And the underground train station is right outside.

One advantage of living in a city which was surrounded by a wall until just 10 years ago is that the main airport (Tegel) is relatively central - reckon on about £15 for the 12km ride in a taxi to the hotel. Otherwise, using Berlin's ultra-efficient public transport system, you can approach the hotel on subway line number 2. The stop outside the hotel is Markisches Museum.

Are you lying comfortably?
The rooms are sleek and chic and minimalist - designed not to distract attention from the art. Decadent extras such as room-service are not available.

The television carries a Pay-TV option but if it's pornography you are after, you won't have to pay a thing. One of the channels on the normal cable network, Sat-TV, shows soft porn round the clock.

Keeping in touch
Telephone and modem link.

The bottom line
Double rooms range from about £100 to £120; singles start from about £80; both including breakfast. Considering what you get, this is cheap.

If you love art but detest famous names, try the Propellor Island Lodge (00 49 30 891 8720) far away in the old West Berlin. Comforts have been pared away to almost nothing but the visual experience of waking up in an entirely bare room where every millimetre of wall, ceiling and floor space is painted in black and white symbols is novel to say the least.