Sabina’s founders intended to create an oasis with a spiritual ambiance. It was therefore no surprise that when they appointed an art curator they chose Elizabeth Smith for her knowledge of spiritual art. Elizabeth, who is a longstanding, trusted friend of the founders and has a family home in Ibiza, studied Indian art and architecture at UCL and the School of Oriental and African Studies. Following her MA, she has built a career on seeking rare and beautiful art with a spiritual dimension from all over the world.
‘Seeing Sabina’s extraordinary natural setting, I knew that Spirit had to be at the heart of its art collection,’ says Elizabeth. ‘I want every piece to make you go “Wow,” in a moment of connection, beauty and meditation. Increasingly collectors are shunning huge fairs like Frieze in search of art that has more meaning so when I source art, I don’t just chase the new but draw on the artists I love, who imbue their work with a strong emotional and spiritual dimension.’
In Sabina’s entrance lobby hangs what looks like a draped textured cape. At first glance it could be a strange, mythical winged creature. When I am Laid in Earth is in fact a messianic coat, intricately woven by Catalina Swinburn from the paper pages of Anton’s favourite spiritual text from India, Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi. It is literally and metaphorically intertwined with elements of the divine and sets the tone for all the art to follow.
The Clubhouse Restaurant is where Elizabeth’s talent is at its most flamboyantly creative. Here are multi-layered photographs by Congolese artist Kito Mbiango, printed on aluminium with titles like Dissolve the Ego so the Soul Can Emerge and The Underlying Structure of the Universe is Love. They show black and white photographs of Native American warriors, their proud silvery faces softened, festooned and merging with flowers that could have been plucked from a Dutch Old Master’s still life. Then there are Angus Hempel’s two magnificent three-meter oil and gold leaf triptychs. ‘I chose these for the poetry of the tree silhouetted against the gleaming gold moon,’ says Elizabeth. ‘Angus lives in the Mediterranean and read Classics at Oxford and has such a sense of atmosphere and nature.’
Elizabeth has deliberately picked work by several artists from Ibiza, like Grillo Demo, the Argentinian who has lived on the island for 50 years and whose work centres around its signature flower, jasmine. Demo’s Madonna with Child, veiled in falling jasmine stars, and his Yellow Madonna with Trinity Jasmine hang in the Clubhouse Restaurant and his graffiti ceramics decorate the shelves. ‘The island artists I’m working with are well-known characters here, whom I expect will soon be regulars at Sabina,’ laughs Elizabeth.
In the Meeting Room, Elizabeth has hung Ceremony and Do Not Be Lonely, the Entire World is Inside of You, two photographs by Anoushka Beckwith, who grew up on the island. One shows a naked girl in a deserted Ibizan cove glimmering with stars. ‘They’re both dream-like and eerily, magically exquisite,’ says Elizabeth. ‘They’re intended to raise the viewer’s consciousness.’
On the spa wall is a specially commissioned mural, Dreamtime, by the young Spanish artist Joaquin Villa. The Lapis Lazuli figure floats, as if in water or even a flotation tank, in a dream- like trance amongst swaying flowers. ‘Every single mark on the figure’s body relates to Ibiza or spirituality,’ explains Elizabeth. ‘It may be a symbol to do with the sea, a Phoenician pattern or an ancient peace sign. Just looking at it will make anyone fall into a deep state of relaxation, ready for their treatment.’ Outside the spa Elizabeth commissioned Tatyana Murray’s Spirit Tree, a huge 3D installation made of layers of plexiglass with LED lights on the tips of the branches. Elizabeth’s attention to detail means that even stairwells, kids’ area and loos have art (the men’s bathrooms contain a witty Banksy: Keep It Real).
Perhaps most bold of all is Emanation by Sukhi Barber, the gigantic three meter high bronze Buddha made from 1,000 smaller meditating Buddhas, which presides over the swimming pool, radiating serenity and peace. It chimes emotionally with Sir Antony Gormley’s Spiritual Man, which will be in the main stairwell leading down to the spa like a dazzling, healing beam of light at the heart of the project (it was originally commissioned by Anton for his British country home).
‘My aim is for the art at Sabina to give everyone an opportunity to see another way of living and being,’ says Elizabeth. ‘The art here is not about status, fashion or money but represents a conversation about raising our consciousness and positive spiritual and mental energy.’
What is certain is that the art at Sabina is in perfect alignment and harmony with Sabina’s ethos of creating an atmosphere that will uplift and enhance the spirit and mood of the residents. And we’ve only mentioned a fraction of it….