JUDY LEDGERWOOD'S enormous abstract work, Hello, is so eye-catching that InterContinental guests sometimes find themselves standing within the hotel's newest restaurant, Spoon, before they realise it. Upscale hotels and restaurants are not called the city's 'alternative galleries' for no reason; Ledgerwood is yet another example of an international artist brought to Hong Kong by the city's food and beverage industry. The artist, who paints large, abstract pieces that explore light, colour and composition, has exhibited widely throughout the US over the past two decades and is represented in numerous private and public collections, including New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. She was brought in by Tony Chi, the New York-based designer behind the interiors at Spoon. 'The two paintings that I was commissioned to produce, Hello and Bon Appetit, were intended to work; the first as a greeting or welcome to diners arriving at the restaurant, and the second as an encouragement to relax and enjoy,' says Ledgerwood, a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Academy of Cincinatti. 'They were intended to convey a sense of pleasure and confidence in complicity with the historical development of painting. These works, as well as the rest of my work, exist in the present in dialogue with the past.' Chi had previously worked with Ledgerwood for a work commissioned for the Chicago Park Hyatt's NoMI restaurant. Chi's colleague, William Paley, says: 'Judy's style, sophisticated palette and the elegant, formal quality of her work has engaged and inspired Tony Chi & Associates for years.' Paley explains how the commissioned pieces greatly improved Spoon's entrance. 'What was required [of Hello] was something with arresting visual impact. The entry is in a low and relatively narrow hall of the hotel lobby. Something bold was needed to draw people in. At the same time, the work needed to project the elegance, sophistication and artistry of the people behind the product. It also needed to be sympathetic to our overall design vision, which was one of restrained elegance. The second painting, Bon Appetit, needed most of all to anchor the end of the room. As a result, two strong forces are situated adjacent to each other: Ledgerwood's Bon Appetit and the floor-to-ceiling glass wall with a direct view of magnificent Victoria Harbour.' 'Many factors come into play when considering a painting in response to architecture,' adds Ledgerwood, who has never exhibited outside the US. 'My first response is to the space, its volume, form and overall organisational idea.' 'Painting for me has always been most effective when it addresses the architecture directly. In this way the work is empowered by completing a whole experience. It's not imposed on top of, or decoratively added to, the space.' For Ledgerwood, it's important that her pieces work as part of the entire dining experience. 'The pace of dining is akin to the pace of seeing. In my paintings I argue for a balance between a sensual understanding and critical, historical and analytical understanding. Fine dining, when it rises to an art form, performs in a similar fashion to fine art.' Hong Kong's contemporary art scene owes much to international hotel groups. The 1980s and 90s signalled the death knell for the staid, formal, fine-dining establishments of yesteryear and hotels started commissioning international designers and artists. Regarded by many as Hong Kong 'alternative galleries and museums', hotels in Hong Kong house some of the city's most extensive art collections. There are myriad contemporary art works by both local and international talent at The Peninsula's Felix, JW Marriott's California and The Mandarin's Vong. There's also interesting modern art where you might not expect. The 5,900-square-foot interior of the Holiday Inn's Avenue houses unusually large abstract paintings by renowned Finnish artist Soile Yli Mayry. Likewise, French artist Benoit Dupuis, rising to the challenge presented to him, used the massive columns in the lobby area of The Conrad Hotel as his canvas, producing the atmosphere of an English mansion.