THERE is a gentleman waiting for you in your hotel room. His subdued voice greets you the moment you open the door. He's talking low and soft. About art. Celebrated art. His own art.
Welcome to The Olsen in Melbourne's South Yarra.
The gentleman speaking is artist John Olsen, on the television, turned on softly, to welcome you.
Olsen, one of Australia's greatest living artists, is the featured artist at this hotel, which is one of three elegant Melbourne properties owned by the Deague family, showcasing Australian art on an imposing scale.
The magnitude and significance of the art hits you the moment you enter in busy Chapel Street. Olsen's enormous yellow and blue painting dominating the lobby draws you in.
Its meandering Yarra River and giant sunburst with long, floating feelers instantly envelopes you.
Once checked-in and through the hotel foyer to the corridors, you are further immersed in the art. Big beautiful works beckon you to stop, study, admire. In your room is more art. Although it is compelling (you can't help but stop to examine, to find the delightful nuances John Olsen veils within his works), it doesn't detract from the lush fabrics, sumptuous bedding and tasteful furniture in the room. On the contrary, the hotel's decor and accessories have all been hand-chosen to complement the art.
This agreeable core of luxury is evident throughout the hotel, especially in the glass bottom pool protruding over Chapel Street. Dive in, do a few laps, and you'll feel on top of things. As indeed, you will be. Chapel Street is arguably the most vibrant street in town. You're likely to run into celebs (Molly Meldrum on our last visit, Kylie Mingoue the time before.)
You need a day to explore this famous Melbourne strip where everything uber-trendy is available, from designer labels to funky teapots.
Cafes, restaurants and bistros are too many to choose from but we enjoy Cafe Greco where the cakes are almost as compelling as Olsen's art. Chapel Street comes even more alive at night with the after-work crowd enjoying cocktails or drinks.
The two other hotels in the Art Series feature artist Adam Cullen at The Cullen in nearby fashionable Prahran and Charles Blackman at The Blackman in St Kilda Road.
The writer was a guest of Art Series Hotels.
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