Urban Spaces: Art, music and the spirit of Ibiza
During my most recent stay, I was fortunate enough to spend a few nights at a brand new boutique hotel/art project called Urban Spaces in Ibiza Town. It’s a great little place which has works of art painted on all of its walls, in particular the rooms have all been decorated by a different artist and it makes for a very unique experience.
Artists include Inkie, Philth, N4T4, Hosh, Mikey Brain, Lauren Baker, Nicolas Dixon and more – all of whom have left their own unique stamp on the hotel’s walls. I contacted Ira Francis-Smith, the owner of the hotel, recently to find out how he ended up in Ibiza and how he managed to get such an amazing project off the ground.
How did you end up living in Ibiza?
I used to be in the Merchant Navy and when I was a cadet I came to visit Ibiza – in 1997 – and fell totally in love with the place, even though it was a different place to what it is now and I didn’t really see the best bits of Ibiza. I came here on an 18-30s holiday, I had next to no money to spend, the reps were trying to keep us trapped in San Antonio and scare us with how much it cost to get into clubs and buy drinks, but I was like, ‘F*** that, I’m going to Manumission!’ I got to Manumission with virutally no Pesetas and had to drink the same bottle of water all night. I also went to Cream at Privilege, it had only just been renamed Privilege so everyone was still calling it Ku. So I went to two nights at Ku/Privilege and I was awestruck by it. Back then there were a few other places that were quite cool, there was a lot more going on in San An it seemed – I went to Space on Sunday as well, at the end of the trip. That blew me away too, dancing in the sun.
It was me embracing the lifestyle. I’ve always been at odds slightly with Ibiza because it’s not typical of the real world, it was only when I got round to thinking, ‘This is the real world for me’ and seeing people that have been coming here for years actually having careers and lives out here. I started to realise I didn’t need to go to other places to make money and live, I can just do it here. That was it, I realised I knew enough people to help, probably more than some of those who maintained careers for themselves so I thought there was no reason why I couldn’t make it and I decided to make a change to my life.
When did you start thinking about starting up a hotel?
I’ve always had an inkling that a hotel in Ibiza would be a good idea. I’ve seen a lot of my friends who run club nights having loads of trouble finding accommodation, I realised there’s a lot less accommodation than there is demand in Ibiza – especially in July and August. With that in mind I got a couple of apartments last year just to see how it would go and it went quite well, I had the Diynamic guys in one of them and some guys from the Groucho Club in the other. It was a learning curve for me, working out how to engage with customers, finding out what they need and so on… For the past few years I’d had the idea of doing something similar to The Carlton Arms Hotel, which is where my inspiration comes from, from a book called Bad Girls Hotel [by Bob Coulter]. I asked the agent who helped me get the apartments if there was anything around, hotel-wise, and it took a month but he showed me the building where we now have Urban Spaces running and I thought it was a perfect location, so I snapped it up as soon as I could.
That’s my idea yeah, I’ve got a lot of friends who are street artists, although I must say it’s not all street art – it’s an art project, I wouldn’t want to turn stuff away because it’s not ’street enough’! If something’s good, I want it on a wall in here, that’s why it’s quite an eclectic mixture of stuff inside. The original idea came from The Carlton Arms Hotel in New York, from the book I just mentioned – in it, all the models that stay there are alternative models; covered in tattoos, or they look like transsexuals or porn stars, it’s a weird old book. I found the hotel really interesting, so I did some research on it and I was more inspired by the story of the hotel than I was by the book, it’s a really cool idea and thought it would be great for Ibiza, seeing as there aren’t many hotels where you can really have fun and the rooms are fun.
I know you’ve only just started the project up, but where do you want it all to go?
I want to make this a success of course, Ibiza is my home, that’s the first thing I need to – I want to be able to say that I’ve had repeat business, I want people to leave here happy and to come back in the future. Once I’ve made a success of it and we’ve got the infrastructure in place I want to expand and set up in other places. It’s not just street art, but most of the work is street art and it’s probably the biggest art movement in the world – it doesn’t matter where you are, you’ll always find that someone has daubed something on a wall somewhere. Politically, if you pay attention to the street art you can almost tell what’s going on… it’s almost like a news service in some places. It’s not just writing on walls, a lot of it is very poignant. If you look at a lot of Banksy’s stuff, it says something about the state of the world we’re living in.
Finally, at the risk of offending some of the artists, which is your favourite?
The room I like the most is N4T4’s, it’s not that I don’t love anyone else’s work but what he does is so different. When I first saw his work it was hard to decipher what he was doing, he does these pictures within pictures within pictures – it’s a bit different and his influences come from outside street art, from impressionists. All the art in the hotel is amazing, but his caught my eye just that little bit more, I could get lost in his room.Tagged in: Hosh, Inkie, Ira Francis-Smith, Lauren Baker, Mikey Brain, N4T4, Nicolas Dixon, Philth, Urban Spaces
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