Last week, 52 beat-up wooden doors went up for sale at Guernsey’s auction house. But it’s not the doors themselves but what happened behind them that had bidders clamoring. Arlan Ettinger, president of Guernsey’s said they’re,
“anything but beautiful.”
These doors were the physical entry into New York’s bohemian renaissance and they all saw lots of sex, drugs, and and rock and roll too, at the infamous Hotel Chelsea.
• Oddly, the door that once led to the actual Doors’ Jim Morrison, only fetched $7,500..?
• A door that once opened for Madonna went for $13,000… as did Jimi Hendrix‘s.
• The door to where Andy Warhol filmed Edie Sedgwick for the iconic Chelsea Girls went for $52,000.
• $85,000 bought Room 424’s door, where Janis Joplin and Leonard Cohen created the dirty reality for his line ”giving me head on an unmade bed while a limousine waited in the street” immortalized Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel No. 2.
• And the door to Room 225 is where in 1965 Bob Dylan wrote what some consider to be THE best album ever, Blonde on Blonde. That one went for $100,000.
These artifacts of New York cultural history were destined for the dump but for the work of former Chelsea Hotel tenant Jim Georgiou. Five years ago, he salvaged the doors after they were thrown out during the hotel’s renovation. Homeless at the time, Georgiou insisted that half the proceeds from the auction be donated to City Harvest, a nonprofit organization that collects and redistributes food from restaurants, bakeries, and greenmarkets.
He told Artnet,
“Having been homeless myself, I appreciate all City Harvest does to help those who are in need of help, and giving back to a charitable organization, to me, honors the memory of the Chelsea. It was a place that was initially designed to be a collective—where everyone shared what they had with their neighbor.”
The Hotel Chelsea has provided room and board to some of the most preeminent figures in culture from Mark Twain and Tennessee Williams to Allen Ginsberg, Valerie Solanas, Simone de Beauvoir, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs. (I once took Quentin Crisp to meet Burroughs in his room there.)
Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey there.
Scores of artists and musicians from Jean Tinguely to Julian Schnabel to Diego Rivera and Jackson Pollock, Yves Klein, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Willem de Kooning, Robert Mapplethorpe, Patti Smith, Rene Ricard, and Sid Vicious, to name just a few. It was also home to the painter Alphaeus Philemon Cole, who at the time of his death in 1988, was the oldest man to ever have lived, at 112 years old.
It’s been bought and sold recently, with renovations set to be completed by 2019 but the hotel will surely never see it’s glory days as the cultural epicenter it once was.
To read more about the history of the hotel, you can go here.
(Photo, Chelsea Hotel, Wikimedia commons; doors, Guernsey’s; via Artspace)