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By: Lynn Markoff

A resort of art

A resort of art

Hotel renovations often aim to improve aesthetics, but in the case of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, the recently completed US$50 million upgrade has transformed the entire resort into an art gallery of sorts. 

This was not a happy accident. The design and hotel management team knew that something was needed to juxtapose the neoclassical architecture that dominated the grand proportions and elaborate interior architecture of the interior, particularly the public spaces. They also wanted the design to reflect a sense of place and serve as a tribute to the history, environment and culture of the Cayman Islands. Using local art — in its many forms — was key to realising the design vision.  

General Manager Marc Langevin said art has always been an important element at the hotel.  

“Art has been at the centre of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman experience since the day the hotel opened," he said. "Local art transformed the bridge that connects the two wings of the hotel into an ever-changing gallery that is also a bridge to the community." 

By incorporating local art, the design team created a distinctively Cayman Islands visual experience for guests and residents.  

"That importance of art as way for our guests to connect with Cayman’s culture and society cannot be underestimated," said Langevin. "We’re thrilled that the new art throughout the hotel is the work of local creators.” 

The design team sought out some of the best talents from the vibrant artistic community in Cayman, which includes generational Caymanians and classically trained artists who have come from around the world to make the Cayman Islands their home. These artists were commissioned to develop pieces for specific areas at the resort and placed thoughtfully throughout the property. Each piece of art thus tells a part of the Cayman Islands story, both past and present.  

art in hotel
This is one of two Gordon Solomon paintings in the retail and meetings area that pay homage to the Cayman Islands’ maritime heritage.


Guests' immersion into Cayman art starts as they enter the main lobby and are greeted by Joanne Brown’s signature lobby floral design – curved branches reminiscent of coral that sit above the new soft green settee. In the main corridor, there's a bold abstract created by John Reno Jackson, a young local artist who also provided 19 warmly rich abstract pieces by the elevator landings.  

To reflect the theme of the Silver Palm Bar and its woven thatch patterns, paintings by Avril Ward were placed inside depicting palms and striking a balance within the space. A wooden cabinet for various "treasures" designed by John Bird dominates the near wall, with sculpture pieces created by Mark Muckenfuss inside. 

Outside the lounge is an abstract painting by David Bridgeman and in the stairwell that leads down to the resort's signature restaurant, Blue by Eric Ripert, a large blue sculpture by Davin Ebanks dramatically showcases the archway. The space around the entrance to Blue has also been transformed into a mini-gallery, with Randy Cholette’s painting “Into the Blue” serving as a metaphor to the restaurant's design and menu theme. There are also three large Bendel Hydes paintings, a sculptural installation by Horacio Esteban and live botanical installation at the base of the stairwell by Dart Landscape Designer Jessica Barefoot. 

An installation piece by John Bird of 50 coconuts dominates the wall on the stairwell leading to the Culinary Studio and the adjoining meeting rooms. 

Moving along the main corridor toward the retail shops and ballrooms, Julie Corsetti brings the sea into the hotel through photographs that are almost abstract and further down, a bright Ren Seffer painting depicts a fisherman among foliage. 

The hotel's gathering spaces are also enhanced with local art: An installation of four paintings by Charles Long hang at the entrance to the ballroom and photos by Corsetti and more pieces by Long enhance other meeting rooms.  

Gordon Solomon’s pieces in the retail and meetings spaces pay homage to the Islands’ maritime heritage as well and Jan Barwick’s multiple prints of the painting "Ching Ching" complement the custom designed wallcoverings and traditional British “West Indian” pieces in guest rooms. Guest room corridors showcase the works of Kathryn Elphinstone.  

The hotel also engaged Three Girls & A Kiln to design and provide a sculptural piece with a silver thatch theme in guest rooms as an elegant place for essential items like keys and mobile phones. 

A major abstract acrylic painting by Chris Christian outside the retail area signifies that guests are moving into a space dedicated to art. The three large abstract works by Al Ebanks that follow provide a striking welcome into The Gallery. 

The commissioned pieces are rounded out by the multimedia collages created from old tourism magazines by Simon Tatum in the transition area leading to bridge gallery and two large works that face each other and provide a bookend to the art shown in the walkway on the ocean side of the bridge. 

chris christian
Chris Christian, The Gallery of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman curator and manager. Photo: Lynn Markoff


Created in 2005 when the hotel first opened, The Gallery was originally designed to enliven the bridge area that allows guests to walk safely over West Bay Road from one side of the resort to the other. Curated by Gallery Manager Chris Christian — an accomplished artist in his own right who was one of the founders of Cayman's Native Sons art collective — The Gallery has housed local artists for the past 16 years, enabling guests and residents alike to enjoy and purchase a wide variety of Cayman Islands art. 

To reimagine The Gallery for the hotel's redesign, Christian broke the artworks in it into sections, including photography, contemporary, abstract, realism and cultural. 

“The renovation gave the opportunity to structure the areas better," Christian said. "We usually don’t have time for artists to produce something new, but the redesign allowed us to do that."  

Christian wanted the areas to feel uncluttered when guests walked into them with metal, canvas and sculptures on display. Each section now has a specific purpose within The Gallery. “Guests will transition from impressionist to more abstract impressionism and then to more realistic pieces," Christian said. More established artists, such as Avril Ward, David Bridgeman, Gordon Solomon and others, are now all in one section." 

Various themes — like ocean, flora or fauna — are placed in a section and mediums such as resin, photography, sculpture and oil paintings are grouped together as well. Even so, each piece of art is given a spotlight of its own.  
“Viewers need to have an area to appreciate an individual piece," Christian said. "This new design gives each piece more space to breathe.” 

New gallery lighting also helps present the artworks in the best way and helps with the selling of the pieces. A sales price is listed by each piece and a QR code links to a website where more details on the artist and their works can be found.  

Christian works closely with the artists to ensure versatility of work in sizes that are appealing and can sell.  

“When guests are looking for a piece of art, they often have a particular size and image in their minds.” he said. “We can give them options to help find what they are looking for.”  

The Gallery will change its pieces seasonally, with updates planned for March and June, and then in October and November. “The same subjects can stay within The Gallery, but it can be what the artist wants to display as well,” Christian said. 

This article appears in the March 2022 print edition of Camana Bay Times.

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