The use of the word souvenir was first noted in late 18th century French. Its origins are Latin – from the verb subvenire, meaning come to mind. These days the word is attached to the kind of tat bought at seaside shops or last-minute airport gifts. Fridge magnets, plaster replicas of famous buildings, bottles filled with sand and the ubiquitous snow globe. The actual object may have no intrinsic value except for what the owner or gift-giver adds and more often than not, it’s left to gather dust on a shelf or thrown haphazardly into a drawer. This season, the team at Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay have taken the concept of the souvenir to its ultimate creative conclusion and in doing so have managed to elevate this much-maligned object into legitimate works of art. Literally. The halls of the hotel are currently adorned with the sublime photographic work of artist Stuart Cantor and yes, they are for sale.
The Australian-born former property developer started his sea-change career late in life, turning to photography after receiving compliments about some large scale prints he had displayed at home. “I’m self-taught and have always had a strong sense of what I liked visually,” he says. “I’ve always travelled with a camera in hand but when I started to share my work more broadly, it turned out others liked it too.” That was five years ago and the sharp eyes of Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay owners immediately recognised that Cantor’s work would make an irresistible addition to the luxury resort.
Cantor’s images taken for Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay are imbued with a gentle nostalgia. Steeped in hushed pastel tones, they appear to arrive from an unspecified era when starlets married princes and people dressed up for dinner. His usual subject of choice is the Mediterranean, to which he has felt consistently called to since his student days on his first trip to Europe. “I find the Mediterranean way of life hard to resist,” he explains. “I remember feeling ‘I’m home’ the first time I visited.” Like many before him, his memories of his very first trip to Ibiza are clouded in a haze of dancing and youth, yet the images he has recently captured of the Balearic Islands are an homage to remembrances of an imagined past. The feeling is uncanny, ethereal and yet totally familiar.
Swimming pools, beaches with perfectly aligned striped parasols, distant hills shrouded in mist, browning bodies soaking up the sun and the architectural acuity of grand hotels fill Cantor’s lens. The images transport the viewer to languorous holidays on the Med, indolent and indulgent, unhurried with a subtle glamour, much like Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay. “Coming from Australia, the soft light, pastel-coloured buildings and extensive history of these areas feels like a world away,” he says. “All of that coupled with great suntans is a pretty good combination.”
While he doesn’t identify as a typical landscape photographer, Cantor has always had a passion for architecture and interior design, a by-product of his previous life as a property developer. “For me, the landscape acts as the backdrop and a building or a beach club is the anchor. The people then activate the shot.” The great Slim Aarons is a visible influence in Cantor’s work but the patina and emotion are all his own. “I do love big vistas,” he admits readily. “However, I do like to mix a series up with some close shots too. I always consider how an image will look and feel on the wall. Interior design has a large influence on my work.” This is evident in the images shot exclusively for Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay and now guests and visitors alike can purchase these works of art for their own homes.
Surprisingly, for a photographer who has been featured in the pages of international magazines, the exhibition at Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay is Cantor’s first. “To have my work featured at Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay is very exciting,” he says. “It’s a shame travel restrictions mean I can’t be there to see it but as soon as I can, I’ll raise a glass with the team to celebrate.” The collaboration came in the guise of a chance meeting. While Cantor was planning his Balearic Island series, he was casually introduced to one of the owners of the hotel. “Poolside scenes from iconic hotels is a focus of mine, so it was perfect and I’m so glad it happened.”
Cantor’s style combined with the architecture of Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay is dreamily matched. He captured the ambience from elevated views creating a voyeuristic feeling, as if the viewer is watching from the balcony of their room, towel slung over their shoulder, just about to go down for a swim. “The light blue pools of the hotel flanked by the towering palm trees and the turquoise waters of Talamanca bay as the backdrop made for beautiful soft tones and calming images,” he says of the exclusive series of photography prints.
Lucky guests of the hotel get to walk past Cantor’s images every day and visitors are welcome to drop in to see them too. Should souvenirs be on the holiday to-do list or if your home has a lonely bare wall, then be sure to make your way to the summer-long exhibition and bring an Ibiza memento into your home to evoke happy memories and inspire dreams of escaping to paradise once more. Unlike the snow globe or fridge magnet, these works of art will never be tossed aside or forgotten; rather, they will become the focal point of any room, eliciting gasps of recognition, nostalgia and delight. And of course, they’ll influence future plans for experiencing what Cantor describes as the barefoot spirit of Ibiza and Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay.