Stepping into this wondrous little boutique hotel is like stepping into a Wonderland of contemporary art - which, you'll realise soon enough, is the main focus at the hotel. People flock from all over the city to see the exhibitions that take place here - well, it's so much an 'exhibition', but the art is curated throughout the hotel and the lady in charge of coordinating the entire project is Mia Nielsen.
Curator extraordinaire, Mia not only handpicks every piece of art shown at The Drake, be it photography, video, sculpture or paintings, but she is also a goldmine when it comes to taking people around the hotel for an art tour and she knows her stuff! Some projects are more ambitious than others, but on the whole, you'll see art that you've never seen before, including pornography in one of the restaurants! But worry-not, unless you get up close, it is hardly noticeable, and that's the art of putting rather unusual art in unpredictable places. The piece that we actually appreciated the most during our stay, was the Michael Toke piece in the stairwell up to the Sky Yard. Subtle and extremely clever, this interactive piece gives the viewer as much they want to see. The seemingly pretty turquoise wash with a Japanese undertone, reveals itself via the mirror sculpture that sits in the cabinet on the other opposite wall and each little mirror is positioned to reflect a specific piece of the painting, and a rather raunchy piece at that! Having passed it many times, we felt rather silly at not having taken notice before our art tour with Mia.
Spectacular in its uniqueness, Mia explained that she's always on the prowl for new ideas and the crazier, the better - all whist keeping them more than subtle of course, for part of her role is to think of the little people that stay here too. Mia explains "I'm also interested in a kind of complexity because the works are up for quite a long time, and so people will pass a work many, many times. I'm interested in (showing) them something that may offer them some surprises once they've seen it six, seven or 10 times."
For the rest of the dazzling collection, we won't spoil the surprise!
Hiding behind its creative vibe, there is over a hundred years of history - the hotel was originally built in 1890 but before becoming the cultural landmark it is today, it changed hands a few times. It was in 1949 that it was snapped up by new owner, Michael Lundy, who refurbished it entirely. In 2001 the current owner, Jeff Stoeber, undertook an entire renovation of the hotel whilst keeping much of the interiors as they were, including the lobby and main staircase, which gives the hotel its irresistible charm.
And before we forget, the facilities you will be able to find here are in-room massage (we strongly recommend you book well in advance in order to avoid disappointment), the deli café, main restaurant and superb ever-changing pop-up restaurant on the ground floor, the nightclub in the basement, and Sky Yard up on the roof, which gets extremely lively in the evenings, especially during a video screening.
Overall, an incredible awe-inspiring and best of all, dynamic project, we feel privileged to have spent a couple of nights here during our trip in Toronto.