The Cullen Hotel – where art and accommodation meet

Welcome to The Cullen hotel...where art and accommodation meet.
Welcome to The Cullen hotel...where art and accommodation meet.


Looking for a place for an overnight stay in Melbourne, Candida Baker chanced across The Cullen hotel, part of the Art Series group, and was intrigued not just by the concept but by the fact that they wanted to review her!

What a wonderful idea the Art Series hotels are – one of those ideas that from the minute the first one, The Cullen, opened in 2009, it seemed as if they had always existed – or should have always existed.

I’d heard of them, but I’d never stayed in one, so I considered myself lucky to have the opportunity to stay at the Adam Cullen cullen hotel in Commerical Road, Prahran, a few weeks ago when I was down in Melbourne for, appropriately enough, a book launch of an art book I’d edited – the Pat Corrigan Collection of Sally Gabori Paintings.

From the first moment I entered the hotel with its full-size cow in the foyer, I was enthralled. The mainly black and fawn interior was a perfect foil to Cullen’s cheerful, colourful, chaotic and occasionally, it has to be said, grotesque art. Cullen, who won the Archibald Prize in 2000, is well known for his caricature-like style and bold use of paint.  Inside the hotel the walls were festooned with prints of his works – and I loved it.


Thinking about it afterwards I think what appealed most was that it was like sleeping in an art gallery, or more correctly in an exhibition by one artist, and it allowed me time to reflect on the pieces, as I went about my business, to notice each time I walked in or out of the hotel, or took the lift to my room, different things about each individual piece – and there are 450 pieces throughout the hotel. I found the idea inspirational to be honest.

The hotel has also instituted a somewhat radical promotion – a reverse review where the hotel reviews the guest. I’m not sure where this idea came from, but asked to participate I willingly agreed, without, it has to be said, fully thinking it through. I mean, where to do you start or stop?? Do you take the sheets off the bed, for instance for the housemaids? No, I decided. Do you try and make sure that the sofa cushions are at exactly the same angles they were at when you arrived? Yes. Do you take much more care about your rubbish, hanging up towels, washing out mugs and generally being as tidy as you can be? Yes. It was kind of fun – a bit of a game, really, although I have to confess I was a bit disappointed with my three star rating, even if they did call me ‘sophisticated’, which never goes amiss when you’re swapping your gumboots for your city heels.

Artist Adam Cullen in front of one of his artworks at the Cullen Hotel.

Artist Adam Cullen in front of one of his artworks at the Cullen Hotel.

‘Like budding authors to a Parisian coffeeshop, or perhaps impoverished musicians to electric New York dive bars, we like to think that The Cullen attracts a particularly in-the-know clientele. So when Candida arrives, wearing glasses, all in black, air of sophistication, and writing a magazine article, we like to think we’re doing something right,’ read my review. (And if I was going to be snippy and edit my review I would point out that they’ve used ‘we like to think’ in two consecutive sentences. Just saying.) A few other guests were shameless in their (successful) attempts to get five stars, including stripping the bed, dusting the room and sweeping the floor, which I have to say makes me wonder about the point of being away from home, but perhaps that’s just sour grapes because without a five star review I don’t go in the draw to win a free night!

The Cullen has a funky bar and café attached to it, and is attached to one of Melbourne’s most famous dumpling bars, the Hu Tong Dumpling Bar, where we went for dinner after the book launch, and I can highly recommend it as a place to eat. The Cullen is also directly opposite the Prahran markets, which is a huge drawcard – I met with friends for a coffee and I could have spent hours wandering around the food stalls.


To be more conventional and review their rooms I would say that the furnishing theme is fairly minimalist, and, whilst they are pleasant, they’re not really out of the norm in any way. It’s the art that makes them, and obviously that’s the point. It’s a concept that’s worked, with more boutique art series hotels opening all the time – including in Melbourne The Olsen and The Blackman, and in Adelaide The Watson. Personally I wasn’t entirely sure about the tiny kitchen stove-top when you’re staying in one of the great eating areas of Melbourne, but I guess it’s a viable alternative to eating out, and the hotel doesn’t do room service, although the restaurant below will deliver for a price.  They also have a gymnasium, which I didn’t have time to try out, and if you hire the Penthouse suite you get a zippy little car to nip about Melbourne in.

I also discovered the Star bus alternative to a taxi or to the city bus – $25 each way to go straight from the airport to the hotel – which took 45 minutes door to door. The Star bus runs every ten minutes from the airport, and is easy to find.

As an art lover I found the experience unique, and I can’t wait to try more Art Series Hotels, but I’m not doing the dusting!

For more information on The Cullen go here:  artserieshotels.cullen
For more information on the Art Series Hotels go here: artserieshotels

Candida Baker stayed at The Cullen hotel as a guest of the hotel, and hopes to get five stars next time.



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