Exhibit in Chelsea Market takes inside look at Hotel Chelsea apartments

An elaborately decorated apartment in the Hotel Chelsea. (Photos by Colin Miller/Courtesy Chelsea Market)

A new exhibit inside Chelsea Market features works from “Hotel Chelsea: Living in the Last Bohemian Haven,” a book featuring photos of the legendary hotel and interviews with current residents.

The Hotel Chelsea dates back to the Gilded Age, and has seen its share of great artists of all kinds stay there. Many current residents are also artists and work in creative fields, and photos in the project show apartments decorated in maximalist styles, with bright colors and various objects and images of all kinds throughout the spaces.

The exhibit at Chelsea Market includes photos of a handful of residents, along with photos of their homes and quotes about their apartments and their experience of living in such an historic building. This, the exhibit notes, is despite recent ownership changes, legal challenges and development of the building into an upcoming luxury hotel.

The Chelsea Market exhibit is in a space just across from Amy’s Bread in the food hall at Ninth Avenue and West 15th Street, and it runs until February 29.

The photos are by Colin Miller, who said the project began when he was commissioned four years ago by an architectural firm to photograph units in the building for renovations. While there, he discovered some elaborately decorated apartments. “I saw there were still interesting people doing things at the Chelsea,” said Miller.

Some residents were more willing than others to participate in the project, but Miller, along with writer Ray Mock, got about two-thirds of residents in the end. Miller said the project gained momentum over time. “Once we had a foot in the door, it became somewhat easier. But it still took a long time,” he said.

Miller said he found that the hotel impacts those who live there. “It’s pretty amazing how ppl carve out these spaces for themselves,” he said, “and their homes become an extension of their personalities. And it’s especially true of the Chelsea. There’s such interesting people who live there.”

The building’s past often remains present, such as the apartment of Sheila Berger and Michael Rips, where Miller noted that actor Vincent Gallo formerly lived and wrote on the door, “Vincent Gallo lives here.”

“People leave marks on these apartments and they’re passed down from person to person, and it’s quite an incredible place,” Miller said. 

The book, which came out in November, has gotten positive responses, Miller said, including from the Hotel Chelsea residents. He said he was excited for the exhibit.

“It’ll be very cool to see real prints of the work,” Miller said. “I tried to organize the exhibit in a way that would give people a sense of the stories behind them.”

He said an important part of the project was capturing the hotel’s past.

“I’m hoping this project preserves something of what the Chelsea used to be and in some ways still is,” Miller said. “It has a dim future, in terms of how it may be able to grow. These are the last full-time residents.”