Hotel guests are notorious for treating their temporary living quarters with utter disregard; the phrase “trashing a hotel room” has been part of cultural parlance since at least the dawn of the rock star. Even the poshest of resorts often fall victim to their guests’ worst proclivities. In spite of all the obvious risk involved, one artist thought it would be a good idea to not only have his artwork displayed throughout a luxury hotel, but to install that artwork in the form of headboards. Now he’s suing the hotel after finding out that guests have apparently been treating his art like any other piece of hotel furniture — which, obviously, includes being in the background of porn videos.
In a complaint [PDF] filed this week in a San Diego court, French painter Yves Clement lays out multiple allegations against the operators of the city’s historic U.S. Grant Hotel, where his work has been on display for more than ten years.
According to the lawsuit, Clement spent five months in 2005 working at the U.S. Grant and creating hundreds of pieces of artwork. In addition to his drawings and paintings being shown in public spaces around the hotel, it was also integrated directly into the guest room furniture. As part of a “Sleeping With Art” concept, several of Clement’s paintings were integrated into headboards.
In all, he claims the collection was originally estimated at around $3.8 million and is now worth anywhere from $6.6 million to $17 million, depending on who you ask.
The big catch here is that the hotel doesn’t own Clement’s artwork — apparently not even the headboard pieces — but rather leases them from the artist. The original 2005 lease was extended in 2015 for another ten years, according to the lawsuit.
One of the conditions of this deal, according to the lawsuit, is that U.S. Grant is supposed to return any damaged artwork to Clement. Instead, he claims that he just happened to learn about a possible bedbug infestation while visiting the framing shop used by the hotel to mount Clement’s paintings.
He says he noticed some of his hotel canvasses at the shop and asked why they were covered in plastic. According to Clement, the shop’s owner told him that these paintings had just been treated for bedbugs and were to be remounted.
“Mr. Clement observed small dark spots on the canvas underneath the plastic,” reads the complaint. “Aside from the physical evidence of what appeared to be bedbugs and/or bedbug droppings, which ruins the visual look of Mr. Clement’s art, a bedbug infestation renders the artwork unsalable. Mr. Clement’s clientele would be unwilling to purchase work that had been exposed to bedbugs. Therefore, all affected pieces must be considered a total loss.”
A subsequent visit to the hotel turned up 90 pieces of artwork that Clement claims were “damaged or destroyed” — cut canvases, unidentifiable splatters, and graffiti, among other ugliness.
Clement argues that it’s not just the physical damage that is problematic; the fact that the hotel allowed these pieces to continue to be displayed while in such allegedly poor condition could result in reputational harm. He says he has asked the hotel to return the damaged pieces to him, but to no avail. Similarly, Clement claims that hotel management has refused to show him copies of the insurance polices the U.S. Grant was contractually required to take out to protect the collection.
The lawsuit also notes that Clement’s headboards have been “prominently featured in commercial pornographic films,” all made by a San Diego website that shoots its videos in the city’s various upscale hotels. Clement argues that this site has multiple X-rated videos shot in different rooms of the U.S. Grant and showing his distinctive headboard artwork. Clement argues that the hotel was negligent, by failing to take “appropriate and effective measures to prevent this practice.”
Clement seeks unspecified compensatory damages, plus interest.
The U.S. Grant is owned by Marriott under the Starwood and Luxury Collection brands. We’ve reached out to the company for comment and will update if we receive a response.