The Hotel Modern, my home base for New Orleans

from the Artsology series The Arts Adventurer

When I put together my travel package for New Orleans, the hotel that grabbed my attention was the Hotel Modern, primarily due to the fact that it was listed as being located in "the arts district." Since I was hoping to see great art in addition to hearing great music in New Orleans, this seemed like a good bet ... and it was.

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Here's two views of the Hotel Modern; since the building is positioned on Lee Circle, the building front does indeed have a slight curve to it to go along with the shape of the road and sidewalk. Each of those horizontal ledges held lights, which created some interesting effects from inside the room at night (more on that shortly). And as far as being labeled as being in "the arts district," that was completely accurate, with the Ogden Museum, a Civil War Museum, the Contemporary Arts Center, and the National WWII Museum all right around the corner. A major cluster of art galleries are also located on Julia Street, just a few blocks away.

two views of the Hotel Modern in New Orleans

There was art in the hotel lobby too - this painting (below left) was positioned behind the concierge's desk. I never found out who painted it, but I liked it for it's somewhat over-the-top neoclassical look. Also, the way the faces were painted, it reminded me of some of Julian Schnabel's portraits, such as this detail from "Portrait of Olatz Schnabel," 1997 (top inset), or this detail from "Portrait of Rula," 2010 (bottom inset).

This picture below right was my view of Lee Circle from my hotel room. It's funny, when I first arrived, I didn't realize that Lee Circle was named after Robert E. Lee, and looking at this view of the circle, there's nothing there to suggest Robert E. Lee either ... it's just a tall column on a four-level base. I soon found out, though, that there used to be a sculpture of Robert E. Lee standing on top of this tall column ... this is an example of the story we've heard in the news the past couple years, where Confederate-era monuments were removed amidst a fair amount of controversy. The sculpture of Robert E. Lee had been there since 1884, and was taken down on May 19th, 2017 (if you want to see a video of it being removed, check it out here).

a painting in the lobby of the Hotel Modern in New Orleans, with 2 details from Julian Schnabel paintings for comparison

view of the pedestal of the Lee Monument at Lee Circle in New Orleans

I find it interesting that there's no sign or plaque (at least not that I could find) mentioning what this used to be. I suppose most people would know, or could quickly find out, as I did, but there's something that feels a bit odd with the fact that everything is intact except for the 16 foot tall bronze sculpture that used to stand on top of this 60 foot tall pedestal. It's kind of like looking at a famous portrait painting with the subject erased. I'm not making any statement on the issue of keeping or removing Confederate sculptures, but rather just saying it's a bit surreal the way it is experienced now, walking around this circle.

the monument pedestal where the Robert E. Lee sculpture used to be in New Orleans

looking up at the pedestal of the former Robert E. Lee Monument at Lee Circle in New Orleans

Back to my earlier comment about the lights on the exterior of the Hotel Modern and the effect they had at night. From the outside, they light up the building nicely, but from the inside, the slideshow at right shows how it appeared to me. For some reason, the window in the hotel room always seemed to have condensation on it, which was odd, since it was January and it's not like there was air conditioning on. But between the condensation and the lights, whether it was at night or the next morning, it made for some interesting effects on my view outside.

I was very happy with my stay at the Hotel Modern - it wasn't overly fancy, but the room was comfortable, the staff very friendly and helpful, and the location was great. There's a trolley stop not far from the front door of the hotel, and in fact, while it was about a mile from the edge of the French Quarter, I made the walk there several times, as there was always interesting things to see between the hotel and the French Quarter. And as I mentioned above, it was surrounded by arts venues, so it seemed to be a perfect location for what I wanted to do.

Editor's Note, July 2018: I've just heard that Hotel Modern is being converted to a Holiday Inn Express! What a disappointment! It'll still be a great location, and I'm sure it will be comfortable, as I have no problem with Holiday Inn, it's just a shame that a small boutique hotel is being replaced by a chain.

Chapter 1: Exploring New Orleans

This is Chapter 2: The Modern Hotel

Chapter 3: Second Line in NOLA

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