Please join me in welcoming our guest blogger, Richard Rabel. Richard is a New York-based interior designer and art advisor, with a keen eye for some of the most exquisite objets d'art and design. A multi-linguist with a ten-year career as a senior officer and specialist in a London-based international auction house, twenty years of art and design study and over thirty years of international travel, Richard has lived in seven countries and has had access to some of the most exquisite and exclusive spaces. From San Francisco to Mexico City, Sao Paulo to Geneva, Istanbul to Delhi and Sydney to Shanghai, the breadth of his travels has cultivated his eye and contributed to defining his exacting taste and modern aesthetic.
Shanghai in the 1920s and 1930s was a bustling international city with government officials and businessmen from England, France and Germany rubbing shoulders with Russian aristocrats exiled from St. Petersburg, American gangsters from Chicago, not to mention the glamorous remnants of China's Imperial Court. So it is no surprise that with money flowing freely into this capitalist hub, fashion and styles from the West followed too.
The star of the city was (and still is) the Bund, a riverside promenade graced by hotels and offices of the foreign banks and businesses that made Shanghai the most important city in Asia in the first half of the 20th Century. But where did this melting pot of aristocrats, starlets, international business moguls and government officials converge? They did so at The Cathay Hotel, built in 1929 and one of the best examples of Art Deco architecture and decoration in the city.
Can you imagine the feeling as you came in from the crowded, grimy streets into the elegant octagonal lobby? This was the most luxurious hotel in the city and was known for the jazz band that played in the 9th floor restaurant. The interior was decorated with Italian marble and Lalique glass, while the furnishings were imported from France. This was the jazz age on speed!
Today, after a half century of communist ownership as the Peace Hotel, the Canadian Fairmont Hotel group has restored the hotel to its previous glory and has once again, made this THE hotel to stay in Shanghai. History repeating itself!