Edward Hopper might be the greatest painter of emptiness and alienation ever to fix his unsparing gaze on the American hospitality industry. And he died in 1967. So sharing a hotel room with him in 2019 would seem an unlikely option.

But look what they’re up to at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond: On Oct. 26, the
museum will unveil “Edward Hopper and the American Hotel,” a traveling exhibition that includes more than 60 paintings and drawings by the artist.

Hopper’s most emblematic work — the late-night diner scene “Nighthawks” — is owned by the Art Institute of Chicago and is not part of the exhibition, there will be no shortage of hotels, motels, guest rooms, halls, lobbies, ennui, loneliness and quiet desperation.

Borrowing from collections of several museums worldwide, the exhibition also includes about 35 other depictions of American hotels and travel by 26 other artists.

“Hotel Lobby,” 1943, Edward Hopper (American, 1882Ð1967), oil on canvas. Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, William Ray Adams Memorial Collection, 47.4 ©2019

(Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper / Artists Rights Society)

In pulling together the show (which runs through Feb. 23 in Richmond), curators worked in partnership with the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, which will offer the exhibition June 7-Sept. 13, 2020.

The most novel part of the Richmond presentation is surely the overnight angle: The VMFA will re-create “Western Motel,” a signature 1957 Hopper painting, as a three-dimensional environment in which visitors can explore and, yes, sleep.

They’re calling it “the Hopper Hotel Experience,” with packages offered from $150-$500 (some include dinner and curator-led tours of the exhibition).

Perhaps because the museum has never reproduced a painting in three dimensions or invited a visitor to spend the night, organizers say they’re still working out many details. Reservation details are expected later this month.

Besides paintings, the exhibition will include road-trip diaries and postcards kept by Hopper’s wife, Josephine “Jo” Hopper, who was also an artist. A 200-page catalog is in the works as well.

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