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French painter David Djian, also known as Djiango, offers portrait services at the Hotel Métropole in Monte Carlo. Photo: YouTube

Want an original travel souvenir? Artist’s US$2,700 holiday portraits that apply architectural techniques

  • French painter David Djian’s portraits are a new offering at the Hotel Métropole in Monte Carlo, part of its series of ‘Just for You’ guest amenities
  • Portraits are just as in style now as they were in the past, Djian says. But he’s had no takers at the hotel yet

Travel’s ferocious comeback has exposed our innate need for human connection and a desire for hyper-experiential, personalised moments on the road.

That’s what the Hotel Métropole, in Monte Carlo, is counting on with its latest offering in its series of “Just for You” guest amenities: sitting for a portrait by French painter David Djian (or Djiango), starting at US$2,700.

“I do believe that a lot of people now, particularly after the pandemic, want to get back to real life, to socialising, meeting people, to see the artists and exchange with the artists,” says Serge Ethuin, general manager at the Hotel Métropole, a 19th-century elite escape that was modernised in 2004 by French interior designer Jacques Garcia.

“Having somebody taking a picture of you lasts about a few seconds – it’s something you’re going to keep, but it’s not an experience.”

A terrace suite at the Hotel Métropole. Photo: Metropole Hotel Monte Carlo

“Your Métropole Portrait by Djiango” is one of 10 “Just for You” amenities, a programme that Ethuin says was launched long ago as part of the hotel’s ethos that it is not in the business of selling bedrooms or restaurant seats, but the business of selling emotions.

Djian is from Nice, in southeast France, where he developed a love for art as a teen before moving to Paris to study architecture. Since returning to the south of France in 2018, he has become known for his portraits, murals and sculptures.

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His portraits apply techniques he learned as an architect. He sculpts the face by deconstructing it into vertical patches of contrasting matte and glossy colours, giving it a pixelated look.


The repetitious paint strokes of a brush and knife on an aluminium sheet give the viewer a sense of motion, and a focus on the gaze brings out the emotion.

“I remembered all of my knowledge of architecture and put it on paper – verticality, how to revisit kinetic art or art in movement,” Djian says. “It is possible to make movement in architecture, so why not make it in paintings?”

Exterior of the Hotel Métropole. Photo: Metropole Hotel Monte Carlo

Technology speeds up the process. The total guest-artist interaction takes up no more than a couple of hours, while the final painting takes three to four weeks to ship.

“I meet the guests, we do a shoot, and then I do a little sketch on an iPad and show them a model of what they’ll receive,” Djian says. “They make a selection of their favourite image, the colours they prefer, and then the painting arrives at their home.”

While the portrait amenity has yet to find its first client, a guest inquiry came in recently. But it was on the guest’s last vacation day with no time to spare, so the artist agreed to receive a vacation photograph as reference to paint the portrait. (He’s still waiting to receive it.)

Back in the day, you had to be a famous person to get your portrait painted. But today it’s a bit more democratised
David Djian

That’s what he usually does for other clients. But there are limits on the kind of images he’ll accept.


“Sometimes people send me selfies, but I tell them, selfies don’t work, they don’t have the same effect,” Djiango says.

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Portraits, however, are just as in style as they were in the past, the artist adds – he’s seen a general increase in demand from customers who lost loved ones to the pandemic and want a more original portrait of them than a photograph.


“Back in the day, you had to be a famous person to get your portrait painted,” Djian says. “But today it’s a bit more democratised – it’s a way of having a souvenir of yourself immortalised in an original way.”