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The Chelsea Hotel, from the hotel's website
The Chelsea Hotel, from the hotel's website


Aug. 25, 2011

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Has Patti Smith signed on as advisor in the current refurbishment of the famed Chelsea Hotel? The celebrated rocker suggested as much the other day, when she was spotted in the lobby of the landmarked 12-story red-brick building on East 23rd Street. Perhaps she was taking a meeting with real estate mogul Joseph Chetrit, who bought the building this month for $77 million and has also been seen inspecting the property, or architect Gene Kaufman, who has been selected to do the year-long "subtle" renovation to the 250-room hotel. Kaufman is a big deal in hotel architecture circles, and has just purchased a controlling interest in Gwathmey Siegel & Associates, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Smith may well have the esthetic sensibility for such a subtle renovation. Her own photographs, as well as her recent and very popular memoir, Just Kids, show a loving reverence for faintly disheveled images of mystery and the architecture of the distant past, as any visitor to her recent exhibitions at Robert Miller Gallery is well aware. Smith is having a major museum survey at her work this fall at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Conn. "Patti Smith: Camera Solo," Oct. 21, 2011-Feb. 19, 2012, includes 60 black-and-white photographs and two installations.

Smith herself is only one of many famed former residents of the Chelsea Hotel. At present, about 100 permanent tenants remain in the building. Artworks have been stripped from the hotel's lobby and hallways, and the doors to empty rooms have been locked shut and white-washed, much to the dismay of the authors of the Chelsea Hotel Blog. The fate of the missing artworks is unknown -- paintings by Donald Baechler, Sandro Chia and Larry Rivers were among those prominent in the lobby -- though one work, a reclining nude by Akbar Padamsee (b. 1928), was sold at Sotheby's New York in March for a record $1.4 million.

Meanwhile, plenty of artists and other art-world types are still resident at the Chelsea as long-term tenants, though what lies ahead remains uncertain. "The new management hasn't really told us anything," one resident told Artnet News. "Though it has moved to evict some tenants, and is in litigation with many others." Among the tenants are Rene Ricard, T Magazine editor Sally Singer, artists Philip Taaffeand Michele Zalopany and the art dealer Peter Miller.

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