The Worst Hotel Artwork, Ever

November 8, 2012

UGLY HOTEL ARTWORK is a pretty competitive field. But here it is, hands down, the winner for worst-ever in-room picture.

This masterpiece hangs above the sofa in room 420 of the Novotel City Centre hotel in Accra, Ghana.

The rest of the room is done up in a semi-African motif, which makes this rendering even more of an insane non-sequitur than it would be anywhere else. Perhaps in a youth hostel or backpacker joint it wouldn’t seem so jarring and ridiculous. But it’s completely out of synch with the hotel’s decor, and there’s certainly nothing Ghanaian about it.

Despite its prominence over the couch, I didn’t even notice it until my third day in the room. For a few seconds I thought I was hallucinating.

Look closely in the lower left corner and you’ll see it’s embossed with an important-looking stamp marking its inclusion in the “Novotel Collection.” A prestigious piece this is.

I can’t make out who the artist was (initials DDR?), but this was a limited edition print, number 30 of 150, and it dates from 1997.

Here in Somerville, Massachusetts, we have the somewhat famous Museum of Bad Art. If this doesn’t deserve a place in MOBA’s galleries, I don’t know what does.

I thought about taking it with me — the theft of fine arts is a booming business, you know. But the piece is surprisingly well-secured in its frame.

I call it, “Air and Sea,” or “Oh Captain, My Captain.” (Artist unknown. Ink and crap on paper, 1997.)

The Accra Novotel is otherwise a decent place. It’s clean and comfortable, and the staff, like everybody in Ghana, is disarmingly friendly. The Sangaw bar, just off the lobby, is a quiet and cozy place to enjoy a cold bottle of Star. But it has its quirks. The Novotel, some readers might recall, was the home of this special cocktail promotion not long ago…

Apparently, if you’re West African, your idea of “Latino” is a crazy old woman smoking a gigantic cigar.

Ghana in general can be a little strange. A couple of months ago I was getting out of a taxi across the street from the Novotel. Directly in front of me was a newspaper kiosk, with the following staring me in the face…

So we know there are people who keep track of these things.

And we have to wonder, who finished first and second?

I digress.

Aside from nauseating artwork and bizarre beverages, there are a lot of things to dislike about hotel rooms, even the fanciest and most expensive ones: temperamental air conditioning, toe-breaking doorjambs, ergonomically hellish “work spaces.”

And here’s another one: cardboard brochures. Nowadays, each and every hotel amenity, from room service to Wi-Fi, is hawked through one or more annoying advertisements displayed throughout the room. Cards, signs, menus, and assorted promotional materials—they’re everywhere: on the dresser, in the closet, on the pillows, in the bathroom. I wouldn’t mind if this laminated litter was placed unobtrusively, but it tends to be exactly in the way, and I resent having to spend five minutes after an exhausting red-eye, gathering up these diabolical doo-dads and heaving them into a corner where they belong. One’s first moments in a hotel room ought to feel welcoming, not confrontational.

Food and room service are another topic entirely. Speaking of West Africa, be careful never to dine at the Pullman Hotel in Dakar, Senegal, where the surly poolside waitress might, eventually, bring you the pizza you ordered ninety minutes ago, and where the in-room menu offers such delectables as:

Chief Salad
Roasted Beef Joint on Crusty Polenta
The Cash of The Day
Paving Stone of Thiof and Aromatic Virgin Sauce

That last one sounds like a chapter from a fantasy novel. Head instead to La Layal, a great little Lebanese place up the street where, once you get past the Testicles with Garlic and the Homos with Chopped Meat, the menu is both coherent and tasty.

So anyway, the phones are open. If you’ve got a comparable example of hotel weirdness, let’s see it. I’ll add the best submissions to this post, or you can simply describe them in the comments section below.


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19 Responses to “The Worst Hotel Artwork, Ever”
  1. Elizabeth Matheson says:

    Funny! Glad to see you are back!

  2. Tod says:

    I stayed in a budget hotel in Nice in France. For a start it was in a neighbourhood where we were advised not to walk alone in at night but its biggest quirk was the elevator. It only fitted one person and it had no mechanism on the door to stop it closing on you and once it started to close there was no stopping it. I had to leave my suitcase in the lobby the the first time around because the door closed on me before I could pull it in.

  3. David says:

    I have a photo from the Renaissance Hotel in Amsterdam explaining that “the 9th floor is located on the 2nd floor”…

  4. Leandro says:

    I like that artwork! Beats the ‘elevator music’ art that gets put up all the time, like cheesy palette knife paintings of Italy.. or bad minimalism.. or stale images of boats. While that print is not spectacular in any way, its unique so I give it an A for effort.

  5. Tim says:

    He looks a little like Boris Badenov!

  6. Accra Bob says:

    LOL. I have never stayed at the Accra Novotel, but I do frequent the restaurant and coffee shop on mornings when I have early appointments on High Street. All I can say is that the “art” looks as if it was painted with Novotel’s coffee, rather than with paint. Wait – scant difference.

    With all the hotel choices in Accra, THAT’s where your airline puts you? Not even close to the airport. :-)

  7. Martin says:

    I like it, and I don’t expect the sort of African art we non-Africans expect in every African hotel I check in to. Africans aren’t somehow isolated from the international culture or other national cultures these days. Not sure if the artist is Ghanaian, or African, but if he or she is, it is Ghanaian or African art.

    But a better Africa story: one of the weirdest hotel things that have happened to me happened in the mid ’80s at the Intercontinental in Lusaka, Zambia. I checked in the morning after the exchange rate with the dollar was halved by presidential decree in a live TV speech to the nation (that is a dollar was immediately worth half as much in the local currency). But the teller in the bank branch in the hotel lobby took pity on my unfortunate arrival timing, and gave me the old exchange rate anyway. Now that’s hospitality.

  8. Verline says:

    It looks like it’s done in early “Ren and Stimpy”.

  9. shaun says:

    Thanks for the post. It’s funny that Google search actually cover the Ghana thing. The two countries that beat Ghana are The Republic of Congo and Ecuador. Wonder why nobody is interested in men with big ears, noses or feet?

  10. Randy says:

    I think leaving Salon has freed your creative, comedic juices.

  11. There is a local seafood restaurant in Dakar at the end of the road past the Meridian President hotel, not far from the airport. Right on the water, perhaps the westernmost eatery in Africa, down a little alley on the left. should give you a satellite fix.
    Go. Get the clams. Avoid the sea urchins.

  12. A Pillai says:

    It is room 420, Patrick! What did you expect?!!

  13. Buff Crone says:

    There is a hotel in Tuscaloosa on campus that has a giant portrait of Bear Bryant in every room. It’s like the weirdest shrine ever.

  14. Doc says:

    I stayed at a hotel on the King’s Highway in Queensland. The hotel and the surrounding trees were infested with flying foxes (think bats the size of a small cat). They were everywhere. Every morning your car would be covered with bat guano. Occasionally, you would get bombed walking outside. The sidewalks and balconies were covered with it. When you went outside you ran and got in your car or to an area where there no trees for the bats to roost in…

    We drove from Sydney to Townsville on that trip, stayed in a lot of crappy hotels, but the ‘batcave’ was the worst.

    • Doc says:

      BTW–The picture reminds me of a FBO where we used to park on occasion.

      She constantly tried things like flying 100 miles on an 8th of a tank of gasoline.

      She crashed three airplanes running out of gas in 3 months.

  15. Joey says:

    I remember a poor housekeeper mentioning on the Salon article the amount of work it takes for them to reset those cardboard brochures and the limited amount of time they have to clean a room..

    Just thought it would bear repeating here! You don’t need to make their lives any harder than it is! I’d just fold them up neatly where they are, or move them to the main desk.

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