In May, a reimagined art-focused hotel named ModernHaus SoHo opened in Manhattan. Once known as The James Hotel, the space was reinvigorated by a new owner, Thor Equities, and a talented visionary at the real estate development firm by the name of Jack J. Sitt. Marking Thor’s first hospitality brand, ModernHaus aims to juxtapose contemporary design and heightened food and beverage programs with a nod to the Bauhaus movement, yet through a contemporary lens.
As for Sitt Jr., he knows a thing or two about the juxtaposition of hospitality and art. A director at Thor, and the son of the firm’s CEO, Joseph J. Sitt, he also has a renowned collection of his own. At the hotel, visitors can explore the collection almost entirely throughout the property, with paintings and sculptures on view by artists like Jean Dubuffet, Hans Hofmann, and Kaws.
At first, guests are greeted to an expansive lobby of concrete and wood, flanked by a large-scale Harland Miller work. Upstairs and around the corner, they can find themselves dining al fresco at Veranda—a greenhouse-like food outlet by the Michelin-starred Chef George Mendes and the hospitality veteran David Rabin—while wandering through paper and sculptural works by the contemporary art icon Kaws, among others. While heading toward the elevator, an inspiring George Condo piece entitled “Pandemic”—aptly named due to its formation during the pandemic—pops in a shade of sunset pink from the wall.
On the second floor, the Jumpin Jacks cafe features colorful pieces that draw the visitor in, including pieces by Hans Hartung and Nicolas Party, and even a bespoke jumping rabbit neon as its logo. Upstairs in each of the 114 studios and suites, overnight guests can revel in works hung throughout the floor’s hallways and above the beds, rest in design-friendly bedside chairs, and immerse themselves in awe-inspiring views of SoHo. And at the top, the rooftop outlet Jimmy shines with plenty more art and design pieces inside, as well as spectacular poolside views and a new terrace bar outside.
Whitewall caught up with Sitt Jr. to hear how the new hotel reflects his love of art, what his latest acquisition was, and where he’s headed next.
WHITEWALL: What did you aim for ModernHaus SoHo to bring to the downtown community?
JACK J. SITT: When opening ModernHaus SoHo, our goal was to create a social gathering point—really the living room of SoHo—for New Yorkers and visitors alike. I wanted to mimic the “one stop shop” feeling of a member’s club, but keep it accessible and spacious, which is a rarity in New York City. When guests arrive, there’s so much at their fingertips without feeling packed in. You can have dinner prepared by a Michelin-starred chef, take a meeting over coffee in our lounge, tan on the rooftop pool, or enjoy an outdoor wellness class.
WW: What can arts patrons expect to see in the space?
JJS: Art patrons can expect an eclectic mix of one-of-a-kind paintings and sculptures from the world’s foremost contemporary names, including Hans Hartung, George Condo, Harland Miller, Jean Dubuffet, Hans Hoffman, Nicolas Party, and Kaws—each conveying a distinct artistic perspective on the neighborhood’s trademark modernism.
WW: Do you have a favorite work in the hotel?
JJS: My favorite work throughout the hotel is our Kaws sculpture of two figures embracing each other. It’s a larger-than-life piece that exudes this warm, friendly energy. It’s been deliberately placed in our most visible area, outside in the lower terrace of our restaurant Veranda, and brings the space to life, serving as a reminder that this hotel is meant to be a social hub.
WW: Were there any pieces specifically commissioned for the hotel?
JJS: Not specifically, however, we acquired a striking piece by George Condo titled “Pandemic,” which he painted in 2020. The piece feels instantly relatable and speaks to our collective human experience this past year while providing a sense of hope for what’s next. I knew it would be a strong statement in the hotel.
WW: What is your personal relationship like to the art world?
JJS: I’ve always been enamored with the art world. For me, it’s part emotional investment in the artist and part long-term investment for the future.
WW: What makes up your personal collection? What was your first and last acquired piece?
JJS: All of the art in the hotel is a part of my personal collection, along with a special few I keep offsite to enjoy in private. The first piece I ever purchased was an original 1960s Italian poster for James Bond’s “You Only Live Twice,” and it made me feel much cooler than I was in my early 20s. My most recent purchase was a Nicolas Party painting, titled Still Life (Fruit).
WW: How did the pandemic impact your idea of the importance of art in hospitality?
JJS: We crafted this hotel with the intention of it being a haven for our guests—a place where people can come to get away, get inspired, and be fully taken care of.
WW: How do you feel both the reenvisioned return of Jimmy and the new Veranda restaurant by Mendes heighten the experience of ModernHaus SoHo?
JJS: The idea is to draw you in with the beauty of the venues, and keep you coming back for the food and drink.
WW: What’s your one do-not-miss thing on Veranda’s menu?
JJS: Beware of the sourdough bread. It’s hands-down the best you’ve ever had and takes a great amount of willpower not to order more.
WW: What are you working on next?
JJS: ModernHaus is the debut of Thor Equities’s first-ever hospitality brand, and based on the hugely positive reception we’ve already received, I’ve got my eyes on a few places where we could potentially expand the concept—maybe Miami or D.C. down the road. Until then, my focus is on continuing to perfect every aspect of what we have in SoHo. Right now, we’re gearing up to officially launch Jumpin Jacks, our second-floor coffee & cocktail bar and lounge space. Looking forward to seeing you there.