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Contemporary 'Pop Stars!' Art Creates Buzz At New Durham Hotel

Kehinde Wiley, 21c Museum
Leoneda Inge

Downtown Durham has been the home of one hotel for a long time - the Marriott.  But now there are two.  A second hotel held a ribbon-cutting this week in a very historic spot.

The new boutique hotel is called 21c Museum Hotel Durham.  It stands in what folks call the old CCB or Sun Trust Building.  The 18-story hotel was designed by the same architects who designed the Empire State Building.   

There are 125-rooms, a restaurant, a bar and contemporary art museum.  Yes, a museum that boasts work from renowned artists and newcomers.   Alice Gray Stites is 21c's Chief Curator of the current exhibit, "Pop Stars!"

“You’ll see artists who are well known like Kehinde Wiley and Nick Cave and then you’ll see some emerging artists from all over the world.  Marco Veronese is an artist from Italy.  He did this piece hanging on the wall over here.”

Stites said people can literally walk in off the street to see their hotel exhibit at 111 N. Corcoran Street.

“We absolutely hope that they will.  The museum is open 24-7, it is always free of charge," said Stites.

The new Kehinde Wiley piece at 21c is titled, "Portrait of Bintou Fall," 2014.  His work has gotten a lot of attention lately, showcased on the popular Fox television drama, "Empire.

A permanent piece at the hotel is Dave Cole's "Memorial Flag," 2005.  Cole assembled 18,000 green, plastic toy soldiers and covered them in red, white and blue acrylic paint, designed as a an American Flag.

There are also more political and more risque works on display as part of the exhibit, featuring more than 100 pieces of art.

"Just walking around today, and having brief discussions with visitors, I've had some very different conversations than what I would normally have," said Carl Webb.  "And I think that's a good thing."

Carl Webb is a Partner with Greenfire Development in Durham.  They sold the historic CCB building to 21c, based in Louisville, Kentucky.

"We needed to find the right partner.  We had to kiss a few frogs before we found our prince," said Webb.

21c President Craig Greenberg says his company’s four hotels are all in up and coming downtowns. 

“We really react to both the building that we are restoring as well as the local community in which we are developing. We hope that this property reflects a little bit of Durham," said Greenberg.

Durham city and county provided millions of dollars in incentives to get the project done.  There are now four 21c Museum Hotels – Louisville, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Ohio, Bentonville, Akansas and Durham.

Leoneda Inge is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Leoneda has been a radio journalist for more than 30 years, spending most of her career at WUNC as the Race and Southern Culture reporter. Leoneda’s work includes stories of race, slavery, memory and monuments. She has won "Gracie" awards, an Alfred I. duPont Award and several awards from the Radio, Television, Digital News Association (RTDNA). In 2017, Leoneda was named "Journalist of Distinction" by the National Association of Black Journalists.
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