A work of art in the Maldives

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New resort Cheval Blanc Randheli is asserting its cultural clout by unveiling a series of Vincent Beaurin artworks throughout its villas

It may be the smallest nation in Asia in terms of population (fewer than 400,000) and distance (less than 190 miles), but when it comes to luxury hotels, the Maldives punches well above its weight. Already more than 90 of its 1,190-odd islands are private resorts, and the coming months see more key openings. The first is Cheval Blanc Randheli, which opens in the Noonu Atoll on November 15. A 45-minute flight from Malé, the resort is reached by its own liveried Twin Otter De Haviland seaplane.

The hotel is the second to open under the auspices of the newish Cheval Blanc hospitality brand, operated by Louis Vuitton Möet Hennessy Hotel Management. The company is named after the rare and revered St Emilion premier cru, so of course all the usual attributes of a very expensive, very exclusive island paradise are in place.

Each of the villas, designed by the Belgian-born doyen of Asian-influenced hotel design Jean-Michel Gathy, has its own 41ft (12.5m) pool. Yannick Alléno, who held three Michelin stars when he oversaw the dining room at Le Meurice in Paris, was initially slated to take charge of the kitchens; his successor has yet to be named but will no doubt be of similar calibre. There are tennis courts, a golf simulator, a Guerlain spa, a yacht, a dhoni… Everything is in the best possible taste, except perhaps the pointlessly pretentious decision to call the concierges “alchemists” and the butlers “majordomes” (sic).

So far, so irresistibly lovely. But what raises the hotel above the ordinarily glorious is a substantial body of work it has commissioned from the French artist Vincent Beaurin. Asked to produce a work – a soaring copper arch – to mark the entrance to the property, as well as a series of pieces to hang one apiece in each of the 45 villas, his thoughts turned to the landscape, but the Maldives’ Islamic culture meant his creations could not be too figurative. “I found the need to avoid anything figurative challenging but also liberating,” he told me in Paris last summer at an exhibition of this body of work shortly before it was shipped east. “In Islam, they discovered abstraction in the seventh century. In the occident, we had to wait until the 20th.” The other challenge put to him was a demand that each work be visible from a distance of 91ft (28m) – the length from the door of each villa to its back wall.

His solution was to produce a series of raised rounds, 11 inches (28cm) in diameter, that protrude from the walls rather as the island rises above the ocean. Each was carved by hand from polystyrene, a material he likes because “it looks very heavy, but is light”. Then, one by one, he painted them in epoxy resin, and sifted, using a domestic sieve, a mix of ground marble and quartz sand that had been tinted an array of colours. Each shade was applied individually, and the effect is mesmerising - photographs do them no justice. Each displays a range of colours that at their simplest level recall the Maldivian landscape but at their most complex speak of Goethe’s colour theories and the spectrum that makes up light.

Beaurin, incidentally, was commissioned by the modish Parisian curator Hervé Mikaeloff, whose clients include the Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton and the Art District gallery at the Raffles-run Royal Monceau in Paris. But let’s hope Cheval Blanc keep him busy too. The first hotel of this name may have opened in Courchevel (you can’t miss it; it has a huge a mirrored horse sculpture by Bruno Peinado by its entrance) in 2006, but a further three are in development. It would be great if they were to take their art as seriously as this one has.

Rooms at Cheval Blanc Randheli start from $1,300 (£810) a night

Cheval Blanc Randheli Maldives Resort Reservations

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