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Super 8 Said Farewell to Its Kitschy Motel Art With a Gallery Show

Sending mediocre art off in style

(Courtesy of Super 8)
smithsonian.com

For decades, the Super 8 motel chain decorated thousands of rooms across the United States with nondescript watercolor paintings and prints. But while the motel is embracing a decorative redesign that is replacing its old works with more modern photographs, its outgoing artwork got one last shining moment: a one-night gallery show.

Super 8 recently rented out a Manhattan gallery to put on an exhibition of its paintings. Titled “When The Art Comes Down: Works from the Super 8 Collection,” the event showcased all sorts of generic nature scenes, animal portraits, and still lifes of flowers, Claire Voon writes for Hyperallergic. Connoisseurs of bland art bought at garage sales, flea markets and big-box stores were in for a treat: the first 100 visitors got to take one of the paintings home for free.

“We know it’s not easy to love the watercolors of yore that have served as our décor for decades, but we want to ensure everyone – from art appreciators to our brand loyalists – has the chance to take home a little piece of Super 8 as we make way for the brand’s purposeful new look,” Mike Mueller, Super 8’s brand senior vice president, said in a statement.

While none of these paintings are likely to win any awards, that’s sort of the point. Super 8 is candid about its old “not-so super art,” with Mueller, likening them to background noise that was supposed to go mostly unnoticed by its customers, Voon reports.

"In the past, Super 8 has not dictated what type of art goes into the hotel, Our hotel owners were left to their own devices," Mueller tells Nancy Trejos for USA Today. "They would go out and find what is personally appealing to them or cheap, and that’s what we are trying to get away from with Super 8.”

The event was MC’d by comedian Amy Sedaris, who personally named all of the artworks on display, giving them generic but amusing titles, such as “Monet Knock-Knock Of, Who’s There?” and “It’s More About the Frame than the Flower,” Voon writes.

“I had to name nearly 100 pieces and it was very hard,” Sedaris tells Trejos. “I tried my best to be wholesome and as vague as possible. I didn’t want to project too much. And didn’t want to offend. The art is harmless after all.”

In the past, Super 8 rooms more or less looked the same, no matter what part of the country they were located in. Now, the redesigned rooms will be decorated with large black-and-white or sepia photographs that highlight local sights in a bid to change the image of Super 8, Trejos reports. But at least the lucky connoisseurs of kitsch who attended the event can still hold onto an iconic piece of a bygone era.

About Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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