Why Nobody Steals Hotel Artwork

I’m sitting in a hotel room in Lancaster, California. It’s a simple room with the basics: a bed, a desk, a TV, and a microwave.

And there’s a painting on the wall. It’s pretty big, and has an even bigger gold frame. I’m sure it’s just a print, and there’s a piece of glass covering it.

Now, I’m not an expert on art. But I think good art is supposed to capture your emotions. It catches your eye when you see it, and you interact with the painting in an emotional way.

In other words, it moves you.

I’m not being moved.

Hotel artIt’s colorful, but I’m not sure what it represents. I’m not driven to pull it off the wall and sneak it into my car.

That got me thinking. I don’t know how many nights I’ve spent in hotel rooms in my life, but I’m guessing it’s over 1000. Fancy hotels, cheap hotels, and a bunch in-between. In all those nights, I can’t think of a time when I’ve noticed a painting.

I’m sure there was a painting in almost every room. But I didn’t notice. They didn’t grab me.

But they didn’t irritate me, either.

I wonder if the hotels buy those paintings in bulk, and use them to decorate their rooms to set the tone and make them feel “homey.” By hanging nondescript art, nobody is offended – and they don’t have to worry about people stealing it.

I wonder if the original artist feels bad knowing that his/her artwork is so bland that nobody would notice it or steal it. (But then again, if the artist gets a little commission for every print that’s purchased, having it in thousands of hotels might ease the pain a bit.)

If I compare hotel art to a masterpiece in an art museum, it will always look cheap. But if the purpose is to set a tone for the room, it does its job well.

It makes the room feel comfortable. If that’s the purpose, it’s the perfect painting for the wall.

It’s a “masterpiece” in fulfilling its purpose.

Can you feel the life lesson coming? Here it is:

You’re unique.

There’s nobody else like you.

There’s a purpose for your life that nobody else can fulfill.

If you fulfill that purpose, your life is a masterpiece.

If you compare your life with somebody else’s masterpiece, you’re trying to fulfill their purpose, not yours. When that happens, you’ll probably feel like cheap hotel art.

Don’t be somebody else. It robs the world of your uniqueness.

Be yourself. Make your own unique contribution. Quit comparing yourself to others.

Be the best “you” you can be, and the world will see a work of art.

Be a masterpiece today.


Senior Consultant at FranklinCovey; Speaker, Author of 5 books – including “People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keys,” “I Wish He Had Come With Instructions,” and “Dealing With the Elephant in the Room.” (See Book page)

  • _danarc_

    that’s a really good point, I was wondering the same, I’m an architect and I love to paint, that’s my passion.
    have a look on my instagram page _danarc_ and please leave a feedback if you like.

  • Mike, as always, your insights are powerful. I’m gonna be my unique self today!

  • Arv

    I wonder if it’s the context that robs the painting of its ability to move. Like you, I’ve never been moved by a piece of art in a hotel room. But the piece of art that you posted _does_ move me a little, when posted on your blog. Would it move me if it were on the wall of a sterile hotel room? Probably not – for a host of reasons.

    One reason is that, if the hotel and room otherwise feel “generic” (most do!) – designed by a corporate committee who examined the best practices for having a room feel “homey” but “inoffensive” – I’m likely to assume that the art is similarly calculated and bland, even if it isn’t. Another reason is that the surroundings of artwork really do matter, even beyond how they influence my assumptions about the art. Try to picture the piece above in a room in the center of a wall, in a room of its own, in a museum exhibit. First, the assumptions change: The curator clearly thought this piece was important and gave it space. Second, it would jump out more, surprising and bold in an otherwise white room.

    So what’s the lesson of that to me? Perhaps that we can change our relationships to events, people, and objects in our life by re-thinking their contexts.

    • Arv, those are insightful thoughts. As is sometimes true, context is everything.

      • Arv

        Thanks, Kathy!

    • Arv, your insights are spot-on. I’m sure that putting the same painting in a museum would have me approach it from a totally different perspective – I’d assume it was high-quality because someone highlighted it in that way. Context shapes our paradigms.

      We display our kids’ drawings on the fridge, and see them as kid’s drawings. I knew one person who purchased a top-quality picture frame with triple matting and a museum light. It hangs on their living room wall as a focal point. Once a month, they take one of their kids’ drawings off the fridge and mounts it in that frame. The context has changed, and a simple sketch becomes a masterpiece.

      (And that child sees themselves differently, too . . . )


      • Arv

        Thanks, Mike. What a wonderful idea for elevating and reconsidering a child’s art! I’d like to try that.