Artist Says Hotel Damaged His Work, Let It Be Used in Porn

SAN DIEGO (CN) — A French artist on Thursday sued an historic San Diego hotel, claiming the millions of dollars worth of artwork he leased to it have been defaced, cut, infested with bedbugs, and featured in pornographic videos.

Yves Clement specializes in abstract paintings and giclée prints based on a technique of dripping paint directly from a wooden stick onto a canvas.

In 2005, he entered into an art lease with the U.S. Grant Hotel for paintings in public areas of the hotel and to be used as headboards for guest rooms. His complaint in Superior Court says the hotel designed its guest rooms, meeting areas and foyer around his art. He estimates that the 766 pieces of art leased to the hotel are worth $6.5 million to $17 million.

But in breach of contract, Clement says, the hotel has negligently allowed the headboards to become infested with bedbugs, be cut and drawn on and splattered with “unknown substances.” He says the damage undermines his reputation as an artist and ruins the resale value of the art.

The U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego is on the National Register of Historic Places. It has 270 guest rooms in its 11 stories, plus meeting rooms and a ballroom. It was built by Ulysses S. Grant Jr. and named for his father, the Union general and U.S. president. San Diego voters chipped in $700,000 for the $1.5 million needed to build it when Grant ran out of money. It opened in 1910.

More than 120 of his pieces have been damaged in some way, Clement says, and under terms of the lease, they should be returned to him for restoration. But the hotel has not done so, even after they tried to resolve the issue through mediation, nor has the hotel provided proof that the art is insured at its true value, according to the 9-page complaint.

Clement also objects that several of his distinctive canvas headboards have been featured in pornographic videos filmed at the U.S. Grant and distributed on the girlsdoporn.com website.

He seeks damages for breach of contract, breach of faith, negligence, failing to maintain appropriate insurance on the art, and declaratory judgment interpreting the “damaged art” section of the lease.

Neither party could be reached for comment after business hours Thursday.

Clement is represented by Kim Ashley with Veatch Carlson in Los Angeles.

(Photo shows one of Yves Clement’s headboards at the U.S. Grant Hotel in San Diego.)

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