It’s not every day you have a hotel named after you. After the opening of his namesake hotel, Art Series Hotels Group’s The Fantauzzo, Vincent Fantauzzo and actress-turned-curator wife Asher Keddie guide marie claire through their latest project.
There’s a lot going on in an Asher Keddie smile. We’ve witnessed it on screen oscillating between awkwardness and composure as Nina Proudman in Offspring and within the fractured veneer of unnerved mother Alexandra Grenville in The Cry. Her husband, artist Vincent Fantauzzo, captured it himself in the portrait “Love Face”, which won the 2013 Archibald Prize People’s Choice Award, portraying a moment of stillness in his subject’s eyes as the world blurs around her.
“It was a period of contentment, vulnerability and pressure for me, and that’s when Vincent is at his best as an artist, when he’s capturing contradictory emotions in his subject,” says Keddie of the work. The original “Love Face” hangs in the foyer of The Fantauzzo, a new Art Series hotel in Brisbane’s revitalised Howard Smith Wharves precinct. The hotel is a showcase of Fantauzzo’s work so far. It also brings to light Keddie’s hidden talent as a curator.
“I wanted the curation to be a true reflection of who Vincent is,” says Keddie. “He is mid-flight in a wonderful career, he’s a rebel and he’s not precious about art. We’ve wrapped doors with blown-out images, curated photographic stories to complement artworks and tried to make it a feast for the senses, with few rules.” Keddie and Fantauzzo married in 2014, when Asher became stepmum to Fantauzzo’s son, Luca, then four. In 2015 their family grew to include a son, Valentino. After years of partnership, the couple were already practised collaborators when they began working on the hotel. “We’re able to appreciate each other’s strengths and get on with what we’re both good at,” Keddie says. Fantauzzo works at fever pitch but admits to disorganisation. Keddie, however, is a methodical big thinker. “She knows how to tell a story. [The hotel] wouldn’t be the same if she hadn’t pulled it together,” explains Fantauzzo.
Keddie’s involvement came about pragmatically, when Fantauzzo needed to comb through 25 years of undocumented work. Throughout the long process, Keddie helped Fantauzzo unearth 200 works from around the world. “We did laugh about some of the work. It’s like looking through old photos and thinking, ‘Did I really have that hairstyle?’” says Fantauzzo. “It was interesting to see Asher’s reaction to early works and where my mindset may have been. She is insightful and knows the visual language so well.” Without a doubt, the $100 million hotel is a huge deal for Fantauzzo, who is pinching himself over the honour: “I still can’t believe it.” It’s a natural fit, though, for a populist who is passionate about stripping art of elitism, taking it beyond the usual gallery setting. “Art is for everyone and all opinions are valid,” he says. Fantauzzo hopes the hotel will inspire creativity in others. “It doesn’t have to be painting. It can be hair, clothes, furniture or cooking. Whatever. We are all artists.”
With more Archibald Prize People’s Choice awards than any other artist (four and counting), Fantauzzo has come a long way since leaving school at age 14. He hopes his story so far lifts up his boys. “I want them to feel confident – their journey in life is their own,” he says. “They will never be judged. Their lives are different to the life I had and I want them to know that we love them for who they are as individuals. I will always have their back and they have each other. Family is so important.” If Fantauzzo were to paint a self-portrait at this moment, he says it would be abstract. “I think to be a great artist one needs to keep things real and honest, and that can be confronting.” Like his enigmatic wife, Fantauzzo still leaves of lot to be discovered.
This article originally appeared in the September issue of marie claire.