The arthotel Blaue Gans in Salzburg is not only a treasure chest of modern art, but also a place where you can enjoy a good drink, such as the Lillet cocktail KaMi. Marketing manager Iris Niederreiter knows a lot about the historic house and the culture that has been cultivated for so many years.
Your house stands for design, culture and of course art, as you provide a kind of gallery with more than 120 works of art. According to which aspects do you choose the artists or the exhibited pieces?
Our house stands and falls with the owner Andreas Gfrerer, who based the concept of the hotel on the idea of “encountering”. Art is his passion and hence, he also knows many people from the arts and culture scene. They meet here, exchange ideas, talk about common interests and sometimes an artist leaves a piece of art. For example, Julius Deutschbauer stopped by with Bibliothek ungelesener Buecher or Carsten Fock, from whom we received numerous drawings. Of course, we also have a professional partner, Patrick Ebensperger, who runs a gallery in Salzburg and Berlin and keeps making suggestions about certain works of art that would match the house. When a new piece arrives, we discuss where to optimally position it – in terms of content and style. The green painting in the courtyard, Mr. Gfrerer got for his wedding and when it did not perfectly fit into his home, he hung it up in the hotel, where it has been decorating the house ever since.
Is there a piece that is especially popular with your guests?
Definitely the interactive artwork by David Moises, Shannon’s Hand, a metal box with a switch located in the lobby of the hotel. When you flick it, the box opens and a hand comes out, which moves to the switch, hits it and thus starts the closing mechanism. Then the hand retreats to the box.
Does Mr. Gfrerer come from the hotel industry or the art scene?
The Blaue Gans has been run by the Gfrerer family for generations, so the current owner already knows the hospitality industry from his grandmother. His parents had leased the house and did not operate it themselves. If the hotel had not existed, Andreas Gfrerers would probably not have started a hotel, but have rather had an artistic career. That is why it is so important for him to combine art with the hotel and thus follow his passion.
Your hotel is also known for event planning – what exactly is “La Tavolata”?
There is a cellar, actually the foundation stone of the house, built from the Moenchsberg conglomerate. The vault had always been a storage room until it became a well-known jazz club (Mexicano Keller) in the 1970s, where celebrities such as Ella Fitzgerald were performing. You can rent the location for events or concerts. In front of our wine cabinet there is a large table for 12 people, on which we serve different kinds of food in “family style”, so in bowls and pans. It’s all about encounters, sharing, moving closer and enjoying time together.
Which anniversary are you celebrating this year?
The house was taken over by Mr. Gfrerer in October 20 years ago. Subsequently, it was renovated and then reopened in May 1998. Since 2002 there is the brand “arthotel”. In the course of the 20th anniversary, there are various renovations, such as the redesign of the facade to Getreidegasse, a revision of the rooms and corridors or the replacement of all box-type windows. The art will also be better staged by a new lighting concept.
When Barbara Rett (Austrian TV host) interviews international artists for the ORF at the Salzburg Festival in the library of the house, who would we able to meet?
Of course, there are those who play major roles in the course of the festival, such as Anna Netrebko, Rolando Villazon, Anett Fritsch and Tobias Moretti, but also the head of the State Opera Choir or the directors of the performances.
Do many of the artists engaged at the festival stay in your house?
It does happen – when they are in the city for short appearances or concerts – but since most artists have longer engagements, they are housed in apartments, sometimes even outside the city, so that they can also retreat from the public.
Do you have to fulfill many special requests?
At our house everybody is relaxed and there is a casual atmosphere. The guests know that. Accordingly, they are as well and there are no airs and graces. On the contrary, the celebrities want to be treated “normally” and just enjoy their stay.
How can we imagine the classical Salzburg Festival guest? What does he or she value?
Being the Blaue Gans, we have the advantage that our guests feel very comfortable here and do return at other times of the year. They value the concept and the overall package of the house, they are art-affine and enthusiastic about music. We host many entrepreneurs as well as freelance artists. Also many women, because I think that it is generally the women who decide which hotel will be chosen. Since we are a city hotel without any wellness area, our guests mainly care about culture, art, history, shopping and good food and drinks.
Which focus does your kitchen have?
Basically, we serve traditional Austrian cuisine “with a twist”, so a little different. In our case we offer a rather light cuisine with a Mediterranean touch. We are also known for classics like offal and for the best Wiener Schnitzel in the city, which is naturally baked in concentrated butter.
Do you attend any events of the Salzburg Festival program?
Sure, if I have time. Sometimes our guests have cards left and pass them on to the hotel staff. Still, there are great events throughout the year and we as a hotel are informed by the tourism association all the time. I’ve also been to Jedermann, which is a special experience. The ambience at the Domplatz is unique. At that special time, there is culture in the air, you can feel it at every corner and you get infected in a positive way.
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