Series 6 - The Artist Residence, Brighton

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Alex’s latest challenge is the Artist Residence in Brighton, a nine-bedroom B&B run by 21-year-old student Justin. Decorated and staffed by up-andcoming artists, the establishment is designed to be a unique cross between art gallery and hotel, but it is currently failing miserably on both fronts.

Situated on the seafront opposite the West Pier, the Artist Residence hotel boasts one of the best locations in Brighton. Managed by Justin, the hotel features paintings and sculptures made by the up-and-coming artists who live and work at the establishment. “The aim is to create an environment which is full of art in every single way,” says Justin. After a year in charge, however, Justin realises that his business is hanging by a thread. Occupancy rates are near zero, and the hotel is widely derided – with online reviewers dubbing it ‘the worst hotel in Brighton’.

Alex Polizzi’s first impressions of the Artist Residence are not good. “It’s pretty grubby,” she says of the frontage. The dirty windows are likely to turn potential guests away, while several bizarre sculptures look out of place. Once inside, the hotel inspector is given a tour of the nine bedrooms designed by different artists, and the gallery space that doubles as a breakfast room.

Alex’s bedroom is a brightly coloured affair full of random artefacts. Dirty teacups, dusty carpets and a broken wardrobe complete the look. “This goes against every basic rule of hotel rooms,” says Alex. “I’m really struggling with this as an idea.”

The next morning brings with it more unpleasant surprises. The so-called ‘Kandinsky-inspired’ breakfast consists of cheap white bread, basic cereal and bad tea. Deciding she has seen enough, Alex sits down with Justin to deliver some home truths. “I think it’s quite a nice idea,” she begins. “It’s just a shame you’re doing it so bloody badly.” Alex has no problem with the art, but rails against the inharmonious distribution of junk, the filthy, broken fixtures and fittings, and the atrocious breakfast. “At the moment, I don’t think you’re being a very good patron of the arts or a very good hotelier,” she says.

In order to help Justin save his dying business, Alex suggests he work on the coherence of the whole establishment, take proper charge of the day-today running of the place and completely refresh the breakfast. Justin seems to take the criticism well and agrees to make some changes, but his view of the job in hand appears to differ from that of the hotel inspector. “I think it’s a fine-tuning job,” he says. “I think Justin needs a rocket up his arse,” reflects Alex.

In order to drive the message home, Alex sends Justin to the Hotel Pelirocco, a successful concept guesthouse on the same square as the Artist Residence. Here, artists have designed the rooms, but they do not have free rein. More importantly, the hotel managers run a tight ship, with strict cleaning and maintenance regimes. Alex then takes Justin to a good local bakery offering a range of fresh pastries that would transform any breakfast.

Back at the Artist, Alex hits the young manager with a big challenge. In just one month, he is to host a private view for luminaries of the worlds of art and hospitality. Among the guests invited are eminent artists and curators, and a writer from the Lonely Planet guides. In preparation for the function, Alex has commissioned an artist to redesign two of the rooms, but the rest is up to Justin. “I’m hoping it’s going to give him the shake-up he really needs,” says Alex of the imminent event. But she still has her doubts about Justin’s ability to turn things around. “I need to see some guts,” she says. When the big day arrives, is Justin set to unveil his masterpiece, or will he simply make an exhibition of himself?

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