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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.