Now You Can Take Home a Piece of the Chelsea Hotel’s Fabled Art History
The sale features art that is inextricably linked with the historic hotel
Buyers can nab a piece of the iconic Chelsea Hotel’s history when Freeman’s auction house in Philadelphia offers the private art collection of longtime manager Stanley Bard at auction next month (May 16).
Bard, who passed away in February at age 82, oversaw the hotel for 50 years. His life is inextricably linked with the hotel’s rich history—which is both famous and infamous—and the many creative geniuses, including writers, musicians and artists for whom it was a favorite haunt or longtime home.
The Chelsea Hotel “was obviously such a magnet for creative types, so a lot of the artists in the sale are those who were associated with the hotel,” said Dunham Townend, head of Freeman’s modern and contemporary art department. “Of course,” she added, “no one was more associated with the hotel than Stanley himself so he got to be great friends with many of the artists.”
A New York Times obituary dubbed Bard the “Robin Hood of innkeepers,” and a longtime resident called him “the most beloved—and enigmatic—character ever to grace the halls of the Chelsea.”
Townend said the auction, titled “Stanley Bard: A Life at the Chelsea,” features about 90 lots and spans a relatively wide time frame, with the earliest work dating to 1901. Further, some of the works, such as the sale’s top lot—an oil on shaped canvas by Tom Wesselmann—bear personal dedications to Bard from the respective artists.
The Wesselmann, for instance, Face #1 (1966) bears an inscription on the verso that reads, “For Stanley with Affection–Tom Wesselmann”. It is estimated at $600,000 to $800,000 and is by far the most expensive lot of the sale. Most of the works are priced under $50,000, and the least expensive, is a work by Don Olsen, also inscribed to Bard, that is estimated at $300 to $500.
“It’s an interesting cross section of artwork,” that includes artists who hung out there or lived there, including several works by John Sloan, who resided there from about 1935 to 1945, as well as a piece by longtime resident and contemporary art star Philip Taaffe, who still resides at the hotel. Taaffe’s Untitled (1991-2000) mixed media on canvas, is estimated at $20,000 to $30,0000. Bard was the sole owner of the piece so it has never been on the market before.
Another hotel resident and close friend of Bard was nouveau realist painter Martial Raysse, whose mixed media collage on paper, Eyes (1963) is signed and dedicated to Bard in French (estimate: $5,000–8,000).
“Raysse was a contemporary of Stanley, they were about the same age. Along with Christo and Arman, they came to be good friends. They were all at the Chelsea in the 1960s in their 30s spending time together socially. Stanley learned a lot about art from them,” said Townend.
Townend said she and the other auction specialists spent a good deal of time speaking with Bard’s friends and family. “They describe him as a really welcoming gentlemen who was non-judgmental and had an appreciation for the arts. He really created an atmosphere that allowed creative types to work and to flourish.”
Townend says the special connection and added layer of history could fuel even more competitive bidding than expected.”I think it will make the pieces of particular interest to possible buyers and collectors to have that little extra piece that connects the work to Stanley and the history of the Chelsea.”
Early next month (May 2–5) Freeman’s will stage an exhibition of the works in New York at Rogue Space gallery in Chelsea, followed by an exhibition in Philadelphia (May 11–15) at its Philadelphia headquarters.
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