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Did This Brooklyn Artist Release Bed Bugs at the Trump Hotel?

Did This Brooklyn Artist Release Bed Bugs at the Trump Hotel?
Meg Butler

A scourge, a pest and very hard to get rid of, it’s safe to say that bedbugs are resoundingly disliked by those within the hospitality industry and by travelers themselves. But as Gothamist reports, it seems that these ugly bugs have now become something of an artist’s muse. They’re an integral part of a video installation by Brooklyn-based artist Duke Riley, whose latest work, Non-Essential Consultants, Inc., is being presented at Pioneer Works in New York City’s Red Hook neighborhood until November 24th.

Screenshot: Gothamist

Are There Bed Bugs at Trump’s D.C. Hotel?

At the heart of the video installation–which, according to Riley’s website, “combines narrative and documentary filmmaking”– is footage of a man who appears to be artist Duke Riley. That man has a suitcase full of what the artist has confirmed to be live bedbugs in a room that looks an awful lot like one of the rooms at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC. Then that man, whoever he is, releases those bedbugs into the hotel room.

The striking similarities were first noticed by Gothamist who asked Riley about the similarities. And Riley didn’t really answer the question, saying: “I would never personally encourage a person to infest a hotel with bedbugs and I never have. I would imagine that there are probably people out there that think about doing things like that. There are probably people out there that don’t think about doing things like that.”

It does bear mentioning that Duke Riley did release thousands of pigeons from a decommissioned naval ship in the Brooklyn Navy Yard in a public art project and that, after publication of the Gothamist article, a “spokesperson for Riley” released the following statement: “On advice of counsel, all of the events depicted in this exhibition are a speculative dramatization and do not depict actual events.”

Why Bed Bugs?

According to Riley’s website, the video portrays “an allegorical history implicating a duo of outlaw operatives responsible for a bedbug outbreak in Washington, DC.” Not to be confused with the actual bedbug outbreak in Washington, DC which has made the city one of the most bedbug-infested regions in America, according to the Department of Health.

The release of the bedbugs in a hotel that certainly looks like one in the heart of the nation’s capital is a “commentary on the easily penetrable nature of the current administration.” The bugs themselves, well, says Riley, “I have nightmares about them. They’re essentially a human predator. They can’t reproduce without coming into contact with living human blood.”

If you would like to draw more direct conclusions of who Riley is talking about, you can view this art installation at Pioneer Works in Red Hook through November 24th.

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View Comments (18)


  1. MEaton

    November 20, 2019 at 6:35 am

    I think Trump Hotel should sue the heck out of Riley. I’ve stayed at that hotel and I think it’s despicable that someone would release bed bugs in a hotel just to make a political statement. My children would not appreciate bringing home bed bugs to infest their bedroom after a DC vacation! Absolutely disgusting!

  2. pokecheckted

    November 20, 2019 at 7:26 am

    As if anyone needed further reasons to not stay at a Trump property?

  3. OUTraveling

    November 20, 2019 at 11:28 am

    I would not stay at a Trump property, not for the political reasons, but I think the styling are too garish. As to the artist, I think a 20 year prison sentence would be appropriate if anyone is bitten. I believe this falls under bio-terrorism.

  4. chavala

    November 20, 2019 at 6:32 pm

    Haha this is great. Hope everyone that supports that brand gets them.

  5. zitsky

    November 21, 2019 at 2:11 pm

    @chavala, you seem to think it’s ok to harass people because they have a different political perspective than you. I don’t agree. This guy is just a jerk, that’s all there is to it.

  6. alexmyboy

    November 22, 2019 at 4:46 am


  7. Ysitincoach

    November 22, 2019 at 5:00 am

    Already referred to proper federal agency as a criminal act. Shame the artist didn’t fully comprehend the amount of protectees utilizing this beautiful property.

  8. vargha

    November 22, 2019 at 5:39 am

    Pretty pathetic how some people commenting here who hate Trump politically not only condone the actions but take joy in it. What a sick approach to life! Whatever happened to treating others how you want to be treated? I sure wouldn’t want people who disagree with me politically to feel that they have the freedom to wreak havoc on my life and personal property. And I’m certain that they would have problems with me doing the same to them. Absolutely disgusting!

  9. drphun

    November 22, 2019 at 5:59 am

    Then others do the same thing at other brands to get at the people who support those brands perceived political view and eventually every brand ends up with them. When I go online to book a hotel room, I didn’t know that in addition to price and location, I should also search by political philosophy. They don’t have that in the search criteria.

  10. scotymac


    November 22, 2019 at 6:08 am

    Any individual that seeds bed bugs into a hotel deserves punishment not praise. How low have we as a society become where some on this forum think this so called artist, putrid act is funny.
    @chavala….you disgust me.

  11. hejiranyc

    November 22, 2019 at 6:17 am

    Not all heroes wear capes!

  12. drussum

    November 22, 2019 at 6:25 am

    I’m not a supporter, but would like to stay and experience a property to gauge the service level for myself. Unfortunately, in this politicized world, some individuals are driven to extremes and anyone who purposely infects a property is committing a crime worthy of incarceration. A friend once commented on making reservations at various properties and always cancelling before the deadline to mess with yield management, which may be a crime as well. It is far better to use the power of social media to expose unsavory behaviour – those who behave unlawfully on either side. A just society cannot tolerate illicit behaviour.

  13. polinka

    November 22, 2019 at 7:47 am

    chavala, obviously you have no care for the employees of the hotel who will probably be out of work for a time, or for the unsuspecting guests who will have to go to some lengths to rid themselves and their belonging of the pests. Anyone that would condone this behavior is incredibly immature and irresponsible. I can only assume you have never owned a business or been responsible for a large number of employees.

  14. Tharos

    November 22, 2019 at 8:23 am

    These neo-Fascist never-Trumper Democrats are a scourge upon the reasoned and fair minded populace.

  15. IBobi


    November 22, 2019 at 3:43 pm

    You lie down with dogs…

  16. D2travel

    November 23, 2019 at 11:43 am

    Not art, nor public commentary, this should be treated as an act of terrorism, plain and simple!

  17. caljn

    November 25, 2019 at 3:31 pm

    Mr. Tharos: are you familiar with the definition of “fascist”? Neo or otherwise? If you add “oligarch” you are describing trump and the republicans, as we witness daily the deconstruction of the government and our institutions. Sad.

  18. chavala

    November 26, 2019 at 9:42 pm

    Anything that takes down a Trump business, the people who work for him and/or the people who support him makes me happy. It’s not just about politics anymore.
    If we can’t lock him up, get him where it hurts. His wallet. It’s all he cares about.

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