Hotel Chelsea: Living in the Last Bohemian Haven

Hotel Chelsea: Living in the Last Bohemian Haven


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An immersive photographic tour of the legendary Hotel Chelsea, whose residents share their spaces, their stories, and a delirious collective history of this landmark.

Jackson Pollock, Robert Mapplethorpe, Patti Smith, Dylan Thomas, Arthur Miller, Bob Dylan, Arthur C. Clarke, Andy Warhol, William S. Burroughs, Janis Joplin, Eugene O'Neill, Rufus Wainwright, Betsey Johnson, R. Crumb, Thomas Wolfe, Jasper Johns—these are just a few of the figures who at one time occupied one of the most alluring and storied residences ever: the Chelsea Hotel. Born during the Gilded Age and once the tallest building in New York, the twelve-story landmark has long been a magnet for artists, writers, musicians, and cultural provocateurs of all stripes.

In this book, photographer Colin Miller and writer Ray Mock intimately portray the enduring bohemian spirit of the Chelsea Hotel through interviews with nearly two dozen current residents and richly detailed photographs of their unique spaces. As documented in Miller's abundant photographs, these apartments project the quirky decorating sensibilities of urban aesthetes who largely work in film, theater, and the visual arts, resulting in deliriously ornamental spaces with a kitschy edge. Weathering the overall homogenization of New York and the rapid transformation of the hotel itself—amid recent ownership changeovers and tenant lawsuits—residents remain in about seventy apartments while the rest of the units are converted to rentals (and revert to a hotel-stay basis, which had ceased in 2011).

For the community of artists and intellectuals who remain, the uncertain status of the hotel is just another stage in a roller-coaster history. A fascinating portrait of a strand of resilient bohemian New Yorkers and their creative, deeply idiosyncratic homes, Hotel Chelsea is a rich visual and narrative document of a cultural destination as complicated as it is mythical.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781580935258
Publisher: The Monacelli Press
Publication date: 11/12/2019
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 202,895
Product dimensions: 9.70(w) x 11.70(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Colin Miller is a photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. His photography focuses on architecture and interior design throughout the world. His work has been published in a variety of magazines, books, and websites including Elle Décor, Architectural Digest Germany, the New York Times, Town and Country, and Bon Appétit, among many others. He studied photography at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.
Ray Mock is a graffiti documentarian, street art critic, zine maven, and founder of the street art/editions publisher Carnage ( He is the author of Banksy in New York (2014), a firsthand account of the internationally renowned street artist's month-long residency in the city. His photography has been featured in numerous books (Graffiti 365, Wild Art, Banksy: You Are an Acceptable Level of Threat), and he is a frequent contributor to Juxtapoz, Vice, Mass Appeal, The Creators Project, and other publications.
Gaby Hoffmann is a mother, partner, actress, director, and New Yorker.
Alex Auder is a performance artist, actress, writer, portrait artist, provocateur, and yoga teacher. Her unique upbringing in the notorious Chelsea Hotel is detailed in a forthcoming memoir. She has appeared in several mainstream and experimental films including Wim Wenders’s The State of Things, Peggy Ahwesh’s The Star Eaters, and Rainer Judd’s Remember Back, Remember When. Auder has acted in and contributed to the productions of world-renowned Hungarian theater group the Squat Theater and performed the one-woman play Daddy’s Girl at the Kitchen. She is a recurring collaborator in the photographic projects of artist A.L. Steiner, and is a featured character in the HBO series High Maintenance. She lives with her family in Philadelphia.

Read an Excerpt

FOREWORD [excerpt]
GABY: So some people are doing a book about residents at the Chelsea who are still living there through the construction and they asked me to write the foreword. I was just gonna say no cause I can hardly find time to write an email these days or how about a dream? Or that thing Rosy said about being brave and what it felt like when Lewis clapped with glee after Chris beatboxed for Rosy’s dark disco tooth brushing session last night and if I’m gonna write anything do I wanna write the foreword to someone else’s book about how bohemian the bohemians are and how cool it is that I was raised by an artist bohemian enough to live in the mecca of bohemianism and what a loss and oh the city and all those hideous chase banks and what about that old bum on the stoop I would chat with every day while eating my soggy éclair from the corner donut shop that is now a Starbucks before I would go home to rollerblade down the halls and drop eggs off the balcony and—oh yeah they love it—step over that syringe in the back stairway while running upstairs to eat chicken and broccoli with Ruth and family cause mom “just can’t take it anymore”—you know living on the postage stamp. And ahh those were the days and the f***ing rich blah blah blah and if I’m gonna finally write about it all I will do it for my own book, film, or play, or eulogy, and then I thought you should do it cause you’ve already written so much and it’s so good and then I thought I could interview you and then I thought we could just write emails like this one in the 5 minutes before the baby wakes. And then I would convince them that they’re bohemian enough to let this be the foreword. What do you think? Ah there’s that baby! xo
ALEX: You and I are forever bonded by our dead sibling, the Chelsea Hotel. We two are the rare few who really and truly grew up in the Chelsea Hotel and it takes a lot of intentional looking the other way when I hear about Chelsea stories from rich people who moved there in the 2000s because they CHOSE to live a “bohemian” lifestyle. As an adult, I had to give yoga classes to some of these characters IN the Chelsea Hotel, which I could no longer afford to live in even if I had wanted to, and finally I was forced out of NY altogether. That’s the hard thing to explain. We didn’t choose the Chelsea Hotel. We ended up there because Stanley didn’t ask for a deposit or a lease. Mom always wanted to move out of our “postage stamp” of an apartment, but she just couldn’t get it together for all of the reasons that drew her to the Chelsea in the first place. Yeah, we don’t want to sound like bitter expats . . . and yet . . . we do have this love story to share. I loved the Chelsea so much. I loved waiting for you to come home to our little apartment the night you were born. Now that I’m 48 and raising my kids in this neoliberal, helicopter-parenting world, I so often dig back into the memory banks to relive the freedom and community and uncanny surprises that waited for us in that lobby. I go through a somatic journey: through the lobby-I-know like-the-back-of-my-hand, sneak into the sinister El Quijote bathrooms to tend to my recurring bloody nose, up to the first floor elevators if I don’t feel like talking to Merle, and while I wait for the gold elevator I spit into the first-floor stairwell to see how it differed from spitting from the 7th floor. . . . Okay I gotta go . . . love you.
The photographs in this book capture a moment in this process and frame an instant of a city in constant transition. It would be false to claim that the Chelsea’s history has been peaceful. But although gentrification and renovation have strained tenants’ quality of life, these burdens have replaced an existence in which the front desk was protected by bulletproof glass and drug use proliferated within the hotel’s walls. Despite the uniqueness of the hotel, its tenants tell a familiar narrative of life in a rapidly evolving city and increasingly exclusive real estate market. This book is about how a group of eccentric and varied personalities coexist and preserve the oral history of a rich and important part of New York City. The tenants have found a way to create and sustain a refuge where life and creativity have flourished. Gone are the times when those living alternative lifestyles could find shelter here for meager rents. The spaces that can accommodate artists who have yet to achieve broad success have long since moved far from the Chelsea. But those artists who found that here have persisted; they’re still living creative and important lives. On one of my last shoots for this book I met a great artist and tenant at the Chelsea, Bettina Grossman. Though she decided not to be part of the project, I noticed on her door as I was leaving, a small scrap of paper with the handwritten words “Sanctuary—Protect the Magic.” I hope my work will help to preserve and share some of the magic of the Hotel Chelsea.

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