Forget about spending a night at the museum; Hobart’s The Henry Jones Art Hotel is an art gallery disguised as a hotel within the historic walls of IXL Jam Factory.
The Hobart’s Henry Jones Art Hotel is a place that defies being neatly labelled, even though it’s the birthplace of one of the country’s most loved labels.
Familiar to generations of Australians, IXL Jams were made in the honey sandstone building on Hobart’s historic waterfront for more than a century before the factory was reborn as the country’s first dedicated art hotel in 2004. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to eat and sleep in an historic art gallery, this is the place to find out.
History meets art on the waterfront
The Henry Jones Art Hotel is more than just a hotel in an old building: the hotel itself is a work of art. The award-winning transformation from derelict factory to luxe lodging oozes sophisticated design and gritty rustic industrial charm in equal measure, with most historic artefacts and original factory fittings left in situ.
Some parts of the building date back to the 1830s, and if you look closely, you’ll see ground oyster shells in the mortar between the bricks that came from shell middens used for centuries by the Muwinina people.
Everything about the design of the hotel is informed by the building’s historic past.
The soaring glass atrium – a beautiful place to soak up the Tasmanian sun on a blustery day – features shade cloths shaped as jib sails, a nod back to 1804 when the area was home to sailmakers in the very first days of the colony.
The herb garden in the shape of a peacock feather pays homage to the jam factory’s original owners, George and Margaret Peacock. These 19th century social entrepreneurs developed the jam factory in 1869 and promised former convicts a job for life (as long as they stayed out of trouble).
There are more than 400 original art works – all either by Tasmanians or depicting Tasmania – adorning the halls, public spaces and bedrooms of the hotel, including a dedicated gallery space with solo exhibitions that change every six weeks or so. The hotel’s commitment to art goes even further, with the creation of an annual $20,000 Henry Jones Art Prize for early-career Tasmanian artists.
The carefully curated collection of Tasmanian art spans traditional through to contemporary and features paintings, drawings, sculpture and mixed media installations. Two masterpieces you can’t miss are the first you’ll see in the foyer: Lindsay Broughton’s huge depictions of a woven gathering basket and a giant jam pot.
The art of eating – and drinking – well in Hobart
Perfect the art of fine dining in the hotel’s signature restaurant, Landscape Restaurant & Grill, surrounded by one of the country’s most significant collections of works by celebrated colonial artist John Glover, known as “the father of Australian landscape painting”. It’s truly an impressive multi-million dollar backdrop of art.
The private dining room is also home to contemporary Tasmanian views, winners of the prestigious annual John Glover Art Prize for landscape painting.
You’ll find more art on the walls – and in your cocktail glass – at the IXL Long Bar, and plenty of culinary art on show at Peacock and Jones Restaurant, where seasonal Tasmanian produce is the star exhibit.
Pull up a seat, enjoy a glass of Tasmanian wine and watch the magic as it happens in the open kitchen.
An immersive art and history adventure
Art and history are more than just something to admire on the walls; there’s a monthly artist in residence program, so you can talk to the artist and watch as the work is created during your stay.
Daily 90-minute art and history tours, led by the hotel’s resident art curator or historian, are free for all guests.
Not only do you get treated to an expert’s insight of the art, but you’ll also discover lots of quirky aspects of the building that are otherwise easily missed, like the canning-line tramways on the ceiling of Peacock and Jones, fragments of 1800s wallpaper, unfinished carvings on the grand timber staircase, and jam stains on the floor.
The IXL factory cooked up more than two million tins of jam each year for almost 100 years, and if you’re here at the end of a long hot summer day you may even be able to see where the traces of jam still seep from the ancient wooden beams, or catch a hint of the sweet scent of stewing fruit that lingers in the air.
You’ll also learn all about Henry Jones, who started work in George Peacock’s factory pasting labels on jam tins when he was 12 years old.
He rose to not only buy the company, but to establish a business empire that became one of the largest private companies in the world, earning him a knighthood along the way.
Not a bad effort for the son of two convicts, but then again, his motto was “I excel in everything I do” – and that’s the story behind that famous IXL brand name.
Hunter Street – one of Hobart’s oldest streets – might look grand and impressive today, but before the imposing sandstone avenue was built in the 1830s, the area was a notorious slum, home to dodgy drinking dens and other less salubrious establishments.
Join one of the hotel’s Sticky Stones walking tours of the Hobart waterfront and you’ll be entertained with fascinating tales of those rough and tumble days.
Art: you’re sleeping in it
Don’t think the immersion in art stops when you close the door to your room.
Original artwork makes every one of the 56 rooms unique, and each has its own little quirk of history and design, depending on the room’s layout and location in the original jam factory. Most also offer knockout views of kunanyi/Mt Wellington or the harbour.
Beautiful bare stone walls and weathered wooden beams, silk bed coverings in a moody palette of rich red, golds and charcoals, sleek glass cube bathrooms and modernist touches abound. A new take on the wet-edged hotel pool is your own private infinity-edge spa, an ultra-deep bath with a continuous flow of water that cascades over the rim.
And if you like what you see, most of the art – apart from the priceless Glovers – is for sale, should you be after the ultimate lasting memory.